Thursday, December 10, 2020
For the last two weeks the memories of my first recollected Christmas have filled my mind, and it has been very refreshing and encouraging to me to recall the life lessons I learned from those events. I may not have recognized those lessons at the time, but they made a permanent imprint on me.
But I’m not done. Let’s move forward two years to another Christmas. In the Spring of 1963 our family moved to Oscoda, Michigan. Mom had the house all decorated for Christmas right after Thanksgiving. It was time for my dad to introduce the joy of Christmas shopping to his three boys.
My two brothers and I climbed into the back seat of the family car, and didn’t buckle our seat belts. That’s because there weren’t any. We travelled for about an hour north to the “big city” of Alpena where we would do our shopping. After parking the car, dad gave us each a ten dollar bill. “This is what you get to spend on gifts for your two brothers and your mom and me. You will have to choose wisely so you have enough to get gifts for everyone.”
Christmas shopping was far more fun in those days. There were no Amazon lists to guide the shopping. No one asked others what they wanted. The giver was commissioned with buying a gift that they thought would be meaningful to the recipient, and the recipient was always grateful no matter what they got. It required the giver to know the needs and wants of the recipient, and the recipient to be thankful for the expression of love and not disappointed by the gift.
We were turned loose in Woolworth’s and given a time to meet back at the front door. Not only was shopping more fun back then, but it was safer as well.
My first stop was the sporting goods department where I found gifts for my two brothers right away. In the hardware department I found a tool for my dad. I had twenty minutes left to find something for my mom. This had to be extra special.
My mom was an exceptional hostess. Every year, starting before Thanksgiving, she would begin baking traditional Norwegian sweets for an open house she would host for people in our church. On the day of the open house, every usable flat surface in the dining room was filled with goodies. Fancy plates and silverware were brought out of the china hutch for their once-yearly use. Tall crystal goblets stood near the punch bowl. Small juice glasses were next to the ice bowl containing a pitcher of milk and a pitcher of orange juice.
More people than available dinnerware would attend, so it was our job as boys to wash every dish and glass after it was used so it was able to be placed back on the table for another use. There was always a shortage of glasses for milk and juice. Mom needed more juice glasses.
As I wandered through the kitchen aisle, my eyes were drawn to a small set of “juice” glasses. Each glass had a picture of a pheasant on it. They were not only perfect to my 10-year old eyes, but the price matched exactly the money I had left. I bought them.
I was so excited for Christmas morning. I knew mom was going to be thrilled because I had evaluated what she loved doing, and had provided her with a gift would help her do it better.
As she unwrapped the gift, my heart was pounding with anticipation. I gazed into my mother’s eyes to catch the moment of joy she would experience when she saw the gift for the first time. As the wrapping paper was removed, I saw only shock in her eyes. Not disappointment, because she knew I had done my best. But she was shocked as she stared at a gift she could not use. What I thought were juice glasses were instead pheasant-covered whiskey shot glasses.
I cried. I had blown the gift I thought would be the best gift ever. Mom saw my tears. She pulled me to her side, hugged me, and said, “Thank you for the juice glasses. I think we will exchange them for bigger ones.”
The gift of grace my mom gave me was the best gift given that Christmas. Grace heals all wounds.