Christmases have a way of blurring together through the years. Christmas 1995 is a lot like Christmas 2014. There is a comforting sameness to the family and friends gatherings, the here-we-go-again celebration of traditions, the family recipes, the welcoming of new little faces into our circles, and the remembering together those whose places at our tables are empty.
But sometimes one Christmas stands out. It never fades into the memory vault. It is more “er” or “est” than any of the others . . . like my most wonderful, fabulous, extravagant, you-can-have-it-all Christmas. Ever.
I was ten. Admittedly, for ten-year-olds, Christmas is magical. Whether you fake a belief in Santa in hopes of keeping the flow of indulgence coming from the adult world, or are still a Santa believer, ten-year-olds, poised between imagination and reality, are made for this holiday. But that Christmas something happened that went beyond magic.
My parents had sent us children to bed and were secretly wrapping our presents. But, my father, late-to-the-gift-choices, was concerned. I had one large expensive gift . . . a violin, while my brother and sister had many gifts to unwrap. My father knew this middle child well.
“She won’t be happy with this. One present? She’ll think this is a horrible Christmas.”
That’s how I found myself sitting in the car with my father driving to the only store in our town that was open on Christmas Eve. The Save-O-Rama. It was a pre-cursor to K-Mart. A red police light rotated to feature a special sale as a voice over the intercom announced, "Christmas shoppers, for the next hour we're havin' a special on our plush bathroom rugs. Grab 'em while they last!" Last-minute Christmas shoppers, deal seekers and procrastinators filled the aisles. They sorted through an odd assortments of discounted products . . . small kitchen appliances, TV trays, and bathroom scales that spilled out of metal shelving. Jewelry, cameras and purses stacked up in mismatched and rusting glass display cabinets. All were garishly lit by over-head industrial lighting.
That’s when my father said the magic words I had never heard before or since, “Lovie Doe, you can have anything you want in this whole store!”
Now, admittedly the Save-O-Rama wasn’t Marshall Fields. But I had very little to compare it to. I had probably only been to Field’s to have lunch in the Walnut Room at Christmas, never to shop.
We weren’t poor and we weren’t rich. But if one definition of wealth is having options, my normally fiscally-conservative father had just made me extremely rich.
For an hour I roamed the aisles of the Save-O-Rama, relishing possibility, enjoying potentiality, embracing opportunity. I passed Barbies and baby dolls dressed in stiff clothing in their protective boxes. I saw board games and books. I looked through the clothing in my size. Finally I came to the jewelry counter. I could have ANYTHING! That’s when I saw it . . . a gold-plated Timex watch with a white dial face. I walked out of the store wearing it on my wrist, holding my father’s hand and feeling extremely well-loved and loving this protective man until my heart hurt.
Dad and the watch have been gone for many years. I wish I still had them both. But this I do have, the memory of being loved without limits, extravagantly and beyond reason. I remember and still feel my father's love.
Life makes middle children of us all . . . overlooked by those who should protect us, forgotten when we are worthy of being celebrated, under-rated and discounted.
In case you've missed it, that’s what Christmas is about. We’re past believing in Santa. But now we have the truth. We have the lavish, extravagant, personally-crafted love of a Father for his child. Grab his hand. Feel his love and get on home. This Christmas you and I have everything.