Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Best Christmas Present Ever


I grant that this post is a bit out of character for Geotripper, being not about rocks, or faults, or preservation of our most cherished landscapes. It is about a Christmas gift.

There are lots of holiday traditions, whether religious or secular, that are shared by people this time of year. As a kid, ours was all about Christmas. Sure, there was the religious aspect, but come on, we were kids. It was all about presents, Christmas trees, and Santa Claus, and this blog post is about a present. Yup, I was basically Ralphie in the movie "A Christmas Story", only my objective was more scientific: I wanted a telescope. I eventually even got one, but this isn't that story.

When I was a kid, I and my two siblings looked forward to the whole Christmas season, especially the tree decorating. There was the ceremonial selection of the tree at the Alpha Beta Grocery Store parking lot where my Scout Troop sold trees. There were the Christmas lights, the big bulbs that burned hot enough to dry out the tree and cause fires (luckily not in our case). And then there were the decorations, the boxes of glass ornaments, the red ones, the blue ones, and silver ones. We were allowed as kids to hang them, but then there was that fourth box, the "special" ones, the extra fancy ones with the glittered lines, and the concave shape on one side that made it sparkle a lot more. We had to reach a certain age before we were allowed to hang them, as they were as delicate as could be. Then there was the tinsel, hung carefully at first, but eventually just flung onto the tree randomly. And finally, at the end of it all, there was the tree topper ornament, the glass spike. It was a long time before we grew big enough to have the honor of placing that one.

Over the years, the various ornaments succumbed to accidents and sometimes to cats (they dangle so temptingly, don't they?). Sometimes we would miss one of them as we "undecorated" the tree, and heard the crunching as we threw the discarded tree to the curb. Other ornaments were added over the years, some purchased, some as gifts, and some lovingly (or otherwise) made as class projects. The number of plain glass balls dwindled, and even the special ones disappeared. We kids grew up and moved on, developing our own collection of ornaments. Decades passed, and the ornaments of my childhood faded from memory. I had "grown up".

The meaning of the holidays morphed over the years. Grandparents passed away, children were born, family members moved farther and farther away as they pursued their careers. It has become a precious thing to me that I can spend time with my sole remaining grandparent, my parents and in-laws, my own grown children and my siblings and their families. So these days, we travel a lot (you may have noticed how Geotripper has been posting from all over the west coast of the U.S. these last few weeks). We couldn't see everyone, but we did our best.

We ended our holiday journeys at my mother's place, and when we arrived, we noticed a cleared area in the garage. It was a lifetime of family Christmas ornaments that my mom has saved, and she wanted us to pick whatever we wanted. And to my great surprise, there were three surviving "special" glass ornaments out of the original twelve. And then mom pointed out that the tree topper had also somehow survived through the decades. Memories flooded back and in that short moment I was nine years old again.

And that's the story of my favorite Christmas present ever. How often do you get to experience a few moments of your childhood a half century on? No special morals or anything like that. Just a neat and special moment in life. Even better than the telescope I got fifty years ago.