Christmas was for me, as is true with many children, a magical time of year. I have fond memories of childhood Christmas experiences that involved my parents, siblings, extended family and church. These memories have kind of all blended together as the years pass by, but one or two still manage to stand out.
A Christmas memory I treasure yet to this day concerns the year that our parents decided to give each other the same gift. I’m not sure where the seeds for this gift idea were sown, or how long they had germinated, but as the Christmas season rolled around that year it was common knowledge that Mother and Dad had talked about a television for the dining room. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to watch the morning news over coffee and toast, while seated at the dining room table, rather than just listen to the local radio station?” An idea was hatched.
My sisters and I were frequent shopping companions with our mother during the Christmas season, tagging along as she went about the business of making a list and checking off items purchased as gifts for each family member. We had learned at an early age that it was fun to be “in the know” as to what others would have waiting under the tree come Christmas morning. Of course this required being trustworthy with secrets, which was a privilege strongly impressed on us, and especially on me as the youngest child.
Of special interest each year was what mother was going to get as a gift for our dad. An even more fascinating discovery was what he might purchase for mother. You have to understand that this was a man who seldom darkened the door of a store just to peruse the merchandise. When he did go shopping, Dad was a strategic fast strike operator, but one who delayed the experience until the last moment. Dad felt about shopping like many people feel about going to the dentist. He knew he needed to do it, but he was always glad to get it over with. This meant, more years than not, that he was at the Ace Hardware store on Christmas Eve just prior to closing.
But this year was different. Mother was her usual well-planned self and had determined to purchase a small, dining room size-appropriate television as her gift to our father. My sisters and I were in on the secret as we had gone with her to the store and helped pick it out. It was a wonderful secret to keep until Christmas morning.
Imagine, however, our delight when Dad asked us to go shopping with him a few days before Christmas, and he too picked out a television as his gift to our mother! Should I tell him he was buying a duplicate gift? One look from my big sisters told me the answer was “no”. We were going to enjoy what we knew would be a surprise, smiling and giggling about it all the way until Christmas morning. For the next couple of days two good size boxes sat, wrapped and ready, under the tree: one read “from Mother to Dad”, the other “from Dad to Mother”.
I suppose what makes this story memorable, aside from the irony of duplicate gifts, was that our parents were thrifty people for whom buying a new television seemed unusual, if not a bit extravagant. These gifts were a step up from year’s past and clearly indicated a level of affection and appreciation a child is impressed by in his parents. Besides, we were about to become a two television household! No – strike that – we were about to become a three television household!!
Christmas morning came and all the gifts were unwrapped, including the two TV sets. It was a mutual surprise to our parents, very much enjoyed by their offspring. They chalked it up to “great minds think alike”, and then decided which of the two television sets would be going back to the store. (Bummer!)
It’s a childhood memory I’ll treasure for years to come. Something from the past that caught our family up into the fun of gift giving one Christmas season. It’s a wonderful life when you can treasure the events that happen along the way. Merry Christmas.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19 NRSV