Monday, December 20, 2021

A Memorable Gift

What was one of my most memorable Christmas gifts? I'll think of one, then you think of one. Okay? 

Here's what instantly comes to my mind: a jacket. The year was 1973. First, let me set the stage. Our children were ages ten, eight, seven, and five. At least one was a firm believer in Santa--the others in varying degrees of suspecting and knowing, but not in a hurry to give up the magic. The days leading up to Christmas were exhausting for the parents, as well as the children, but finally! Christmas Eve! After homemade gifts for each other were set under the tree and cookies and milk had been put out for Santa, after "The Night Before Christmas" was aloud to pajamaed group by their father, the four were finally asleep. Hubby and I stayed up very late, tiptoeing through the house like two Santas, assembling toys like frantic elves, hauling wrapped gifts from their hiding places to position them under the tree. We wrapped a few last minute items and stuffed Christmas stockings with oranges, mini-cereal boxes, and tiny gifts. Of course there was the thank you note Santa had to write for the cookies and milk, and that Santa was always yours truly.

On Christmas morning we were both exhausted when the eight year old, always an early bird, woke up at 5:00 a.m., ready to sneak a peak at the tree. (Nope, not before all the stockings were opened in bed, an early church service, and a big breakfast eaten by all. Ah, we were taskmasters in those years.) But the minute the first child awakened, at least one of the parents (yes, it was always that same parent) stayed awake to keep him quietly engaged so the others could sleep until at least six a.m. Those early Christmas mornings also appear on my memorable Christmas Gifts List.

Finally we were ready for The Tree, which always took at least a couple of hours. After the extreme hype and free-for-all resulting in the discovery of the unwrapped Santa gifts under the tree, we'd begin on the wrapped gifts, which the six of us took turns opening. It stretched out the joy and anticipation of the day even more. But both of us parents were generally exhausted by the time we finished, ready for a nap, or at least, a little quiet. The children were by then immersed in the thrill of new toys--books, kits, games, Lincoln Logs, Legos, puzzles, stuffed animals, wind up toys, costumes, whatever. And tears. Something would inevitably break or else wouldn't be working quite right, so there was no time for a parent break. 

But the memorable gift? I still hadn't received it. By the time all the gifts were unwrapped, I was completely content with the several small but thoughtful items I'd received from Hubby. We generally exchanged modest gifts, choosing to spend our budget on things for our children instead of ourselves. Their joy was the biggest gift of all. I began cleaning up the wrapping paper/ribbon trash to restore the some order to the chaos. Hubby was stoking the wood fire in the Franklin stove as he turned to me and said, "Sal, would you mind getting my hat from the closet? I need to run out back to bring in some wood for the fire." I realized he must be as tired as I was. Why he couldn't get it himself? Nevertheless, I entered the front hall and opened the closet to grab his hat.

A gorgeous gray faux-suede hooded woman's coat trimmed in fake fur and lined in warm fleece was hanging on the middle of the crowded closet rack. Other coats had been pushed to either side, making this spectacular coat the sole focus of the closet. I shrieked. Then I burst into tears. I had not had a new winter coat in our eleven years of marriage! I was still wearing the coat my mother had bought me in 1960, which--although stylish then--was now the coat that wouldn't wear out (so its replacement could not be financially justified). 

I returned to the family room sobbing and in the process of donning the coat. It fit perfectly.  "Like it?" Hubby asked, beaming. Of course, he knew the answer. I loved it. Crying too hard to respond with words, I could feel my love for him notching even tighter. Yes, I'd say it was a memorable gift--forty-eight years later I can still remember how loved I felt because of it. 

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