From the first year after I was born until I was about five or six, Mary had a twisted Christmas tradition she liked to call the Mary Switcheroo. In September or October she would go through my meager collection of toys and select most of them. This would consist of building blocks, a jack-in-the-box, and of course, a doll.
Like the Grinch, she would then put them away and wrap them up carefully only to present them as new toys on Christmas morning.
What a system! Pretending to be Santa Claus while all the time being the Grinch.
As sad as this trickery is, it actually gets worse. Our family did not have a lot of money. Dad was in law school during this time and Mother was constantly either “between jobs” or, when she was working, most of her income went straight back into the cash register of the bar or supper club where she worked and then, after hours, drank.
But Mary’s aunts and uncles sent her money that was specifically to be used to purchase gifts for her children. When we were younger, I don’t know for certain where the money went, but knowing her she probably smoked and/or drank it up. It certainly did not get spent on Christmas gifts for her children, as we were constantly receiving re-gifts of our own toys.
I learned of this once we were older. By that time, Mary would take some of the money and buy some crummy presents like cheap bubble bath. Even then, I’m pretty certain that she skimmed some of the proceeds to fund her habits.
Mother had to abandon the Mary Switcheroo once we were old enough to remember our toys (and truly we had so few that it was not hard to remember the ones that were taken from Whoville.) Lindy and I have always loved the story of The Grinch and how he changed his ways. I guess we wishfully hoped that Mary would too.