Just a thought… Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us. [Oscar Wilde]
As I get set to wrap up the week tomorrow with another Friday Favourite, I have been reminiscing these past few days about the Christmas I ruined – for myself.
This picture is from Cosmo.com, so heaven knows what this kid is finding under the bed. My story isn’t quite that spicy, but here goes!
What sparked reliving one of my worst holiday memories was watching an Eric Clapton Christmas special on MTV the other night (funny where you surf when your PVR isn’t full like it is at home). He talked about the year his grandfather, who’d raised him, had hidden a remote control car; little Eric found it and wrecked both his and, I’m assuming, his grandpa’s Christmas in spoiling the surprise.
We all know as maturer gift givers that truly it is the giving that’s better than the getting. Choosing the perfect gift and then seeing the receiver’s face when he or she opens it, whether that’s on Facetime (as in Colin’s socks on Monday) or in person, is just the absolute best present anyone can get on Christmas Day: seeing that you’ve hit that homerun.
That’s why my biggest present ever (as a child) was a disappointment to me. Because I was just stupid enough to go looking for it.
I would watch with envy as my older sisters got gifts like a typewriter or a sewing machine or record player. My younger sister got the doll that talked and, even then, I think my parents would say I was “so hard to buy for,” a lament that they repeated in my grown-up years when I could afford to get myself pretty much anything that would be on my Santa list.
Still, I always thought, any gift given from the heart is one that I’ll gratefully accept. A candle? You bet. Socks? For sure. Just show me that you’re thinking of me and know a little bit about what gives me joy in my life. (That’s why Brooke’s gifts of Colin – a blanket with photos of him on it and then, later, framed pictures of our precious grandson – have been so well-received in the past three years.)
And so it was, that year that I was ten or so, that I was hoping for a special gift. Maybe I felt that I was finally old enough to receive something “bigger” like my sisters had gotten. So I went looking.
I don’t know if it was the first place I searched, but I got on my hands and knees and peered under my parents’ king-sized bed. And there it was, something long and black, that had slid quite easily into what I’m sure they thought was a perfect hiding spot. Lying on my stomach, I reached under and grabbed a vinyl edge, pulling the gift towards me. Sure enough, it was exactly what I’d thought – and hoped for – my first guitar.
I unzipped the case just to be sure (because, what else was it going to be, genius?) and there it was: a little chestnut-coloured guitar with nylon strings. I quickly zipped it back up and placed it back under the bed before I was discovered searching where I had no business being.
The sick feeling in my stomach I had from that moment on lasted another two weeks or so until the big morning, when I was going to have to put on my best Taylor-Swift-Winning-Again surprised face and act like I hadn’t seen it before. This should have been one of – if not THE – most memorable Christmas(es) ever. I ruined it. I spoiled my own surprise. Nice going.
Yes, that’s my dad; you don’t have to use ancestry.com to see the family resemblance. But I learned a big lesson that year. I haven’t gone searching for my presents since – not as a teen or an adult. I love good surprises and have learned that life has far too few of them. I’ve always remembered the rather sobering quote from humourist Erma Bombeck: “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning and not be a child.”
That year, I ruined one of the few surprises I had left. But who knows if I’d still be remembering that year I got my first guitar, had it not come with that kick in the stomach I felt?
Tomorrow: a gift that we’ve already “opened” that is the perfect kind of present when you’re that hard-to-buy-for person! Have a great day.