The Christmas Gift
As adults it seems Christmas Gifts are really not all that important as most of us had stories to tell about some gift we received that we never understood. The Chia Pet, the rear view mirror that clipped onto a hat or sunglasses for bike riders or that shirt that all you could do was say "What the hell were they thinking?"
Swapping stories with my group of cronies, I recalled this story from my youth.
The Christmas Gift
I remember as a young boy of eight there was a Christmas party at my church where each child was supposed to take a gift for the grab bag. The idea of a grab bag is that everyone throws a gift in and then everyone takes a different gift out and has a surprise gift. I guess the surprise being the receiver does not know who the giver is, or something like that. There were two boxes, one for the boys and one for the girls and all of us kids placed our gifts into the appropriate boxes as we entered the room.
The limit for spending on the gift was a quarter of a dollar. Yes, I know twenty-five cents does not sound like much, however keep in mind that this was 1966! In 1966 you could buy an ice-cream cone for a nickel, so imagine what twenty-five cents would buy. And imagine is exactly what I did. What treasure would I obtain as I dove into the huge box at the front of the room! Images of marbles and toy soldiers rolled and marched through my head.
My mother always took special care to pick out the perfect gift for such occasions. She could always find a gift for a quarter that normally would cost fifty or even seventy-five cents. Most of the time I wanted to keep what I was putting in the grab bag for myself but that was not allowed.
The lady in charge told us to form two lines, boys on the left and girls on the right. We immediately and swiftly moved into two single file lines; poised in attack formation.
As the lady said, now one at a time go get a gift; everything seemed to move in slow motion. Kids, both boys and girls, hurled themselves to the front of the room and lunged at the grab bag boxes! One girl was knocked down, and two chairs fell over! Wrapping paper, which mothers so carefully applied to the gifts earlier that day was flying everywhere, as I stood frozen in a state of shock and disbelief. Part of me said run, run to the boxes, while the other part of me heard my Mom say, “Take your turn”. Turn, what turn! All that was in front of me was mass confusion. I then thought, well if everyone put a gift in box there still should be one left when I get to the box. I relaxed and waited.
Then all at once it was over and the lady said to me, “Son did you get a gift”? I shook my head and said, “No”, in a timid voice. She motioned me to the box and as I peered over the edge I saw one tiny cylindrical shaped object not much bigger that a tube of Chapstick.
I picked up “my gift” and thought it was awful heavy for such a small gift. I started to take off the paper, and watched in shock as twenty-five pennies bounced off the floor. The lady and I picked up the pennies and she said something like “Oh, now you can buy whatever you want”.
I heard some kid in the back laugh and I decided to leave the party early. When I walked in the door my Mom knew something was wrong and when I asked about the party I started to cry. Mom looked at my hands and said, “Keep your coat on we are going to the store”.
I never even had to say a word. Somehow my Mom had figured the whole thing out. She even gave me another quarter to go with the twenty-five pennies. I do not remember what I bought with the money, but this has to go down as the worst Christmas gift I ever received that turned into one of my fondest Christmas memories.