I still recall my favorite Christmas present from back in the day. The year was 1971 (AD for those guessing otherwise). I had convinced myself – and, apparently, my parents – that being behind the 8 ball was, in fact, a good thing and that the perfect gift for yours truly that year would also feature 15 other balls of various colors, and that six symmetrically placed pockets made just the right fashion statement for 15 year olds living in 1971 AD.
I – and, again, apparently, my parents – also figured I would become decidedly more popular with the young people in the neighborhood when they realized that Youngblood Manor featured the only pool table on the block.
I was right on all counts. For about a month.
My Christmas billiards games experience mirrored my electric football games experience that occurred on the same calendar date some five years earlier. And some four years earlier. And some three years earlier. You see: my paternal grandfather, who I don’t recall ever meeting, apparently felt guilty about that around Christmas time each year, and he paid his penace at the Sears Roebuck store, because the Sears Roebuck store had a catalog, and gifts ordered by catalog could be shipped to my house.
Each December, like clockwork, a large rectangular box arrived at our home, the contents of which vibrated mightily enough to propel little plastic gridiron heroes toward the end zone – until they did a U-turn at about the five-yard line and headed in the opposite direction. In retrospect, I see that as kind of fitting, given that my paternal grandfather did the same thing with regard to my paternal grandmother.
I write that not to lament. My grandmother, Grace, married a better man, Don, later in life, and he became the grandfather of note on that side of the family. The two of them, in fact, helped show me that it’s not what you receive on Christmas Day that matters. It’s who you’re with when you receive the presents that creates the greater joy.
This year, I’ll be with caring parents who have weathered more than eight decades, and with an equally compassionate sister who shared most of the past six of those with me. I’ll wake up on Christmas morning beside a more lovely spouse than the one beside whom you wake up.
Shortly thereafter, our front door will open four times to signify the arrival of children my lovely spouse and I were blessed to rear, two of whom will be accompanied by my bright-eyed grandchildren longing to open boxes containing whatever is their equivalent of a pool table and an electric football game.
I will smile, and I probably will cry.
Because I’ll know, finally, what the perfect Christmas present really looks like