I don’t know why this one Christmas memory sticks in my mind, but it’s actually one of my first memories. I can still feel the excitement of tearing open the paper, the smell of the tree… even the comfy feel of pajamas with feet built into them. I was five years old.
When I opened the box and found the blue and yellow plastic wind up seaplane, it somehow immediately cemented itself in my mind as the greatest Christmas gift I ever received or likely ever would. I barely remember anything else about it, how long I had it or what became of it, but it remains a wonderful, comforting memory.
Although the Christmas spirit remains alive inside many of us, that unbridled excitement that we experienced in our childhood is difficult to recapture. As adults we open our gifts politely, casually. Sometimes, it’s an article of clothing that makes us wonder if the person who gave it to you has mistaken us for someone else, possibly of a different gender. We smile and thank them, and then wait while they open the gift we’ve purchased for them. As they unwrap, with politely created anticipation, what is obviously a book, you say hopefully “I think you’ll like this!” Unbeknownst to you, the person you’ve bought it for hasn’t read a book in the last decade, but still they give a cheesy grin and say “Oh boy, Thanks.” You nod proudly, “When I saw that it was about improving ones table manners I immediately thought of you! Merry Christmas!”
A Christmas or two ago I received a gift from my wife that was right on par with that great gift of long ago… something that I had wanted in a very elementary school way for months. I had noticed kids flying around the mall on sneakers that had wheels built into them, and although they seemed to irritate most everybody… I thought, “How cool is that!” You could be walking along and then just lean back on your heels and glide through (or over) the other shoppers gracefully and effortlessly! I tugged on Lori’s arm and pointed franticly at the speeding teenager. “Look at that! I’ve got to get some of those.” “Seriously?” she said. “You really think you can do that?” I watched another teen with his hands in his pockets casually and silently whizz by. “Oh man! Are you kidding? Look how easy it is!” “Suuurrre,” she said…. easy to break your neck.”
So, like a kid, that was about all I could talk about for months, until that Christmas when I unwrapped a present and to my surprise and delight…. THERE THEY WERE. Adult sized “Heelys”. Suddenly I was experiencing the excitement of being a kid again and the world came to a grinding halt. I had to try them out immediately, so I plopped down on the floor, slipped them on and started lacing them up. “You’d better read the instructions first,” warned Lori shaking her head. “Nah…. I got this.” I said standing up on the diamond hard tile floor. I took two steps, leaned back on the tiny wheels and then immediately hit the floor flat on my back, just like I’d been shot. As I laid there like a dead fish I stuck my hand out and asked “Hey… can you hand me those instructions?
Weeks later, despite serious bruising in areas that I don’t wish to discuss… I finally mastered the shoes… by taking the wheels out of them. They’re not very comfortable and they make a weird hollow “popping” sound when I walk… but I haven’t fallen down since, which strangely enough, turns out to be one of my top priorities these days.
So, I suppose that’s the way it is… gifts don’t always hit the mark, but sometimes they can certainly leave a mark, whether in our memory or on our… well, let’s just leave it at that.