As a child, the week before Christmas seemed to drag on ‘forever’. Each evening, I would torture myself by staring at all the pretty wrapped presents under the tree, scoping out the name tags to see which ones were mine. Then, I would shake each box and try to guess what was inside.
When I was 11 or 12 (I can’t remember which rotten age I was at the time) there were identical large boxes under the tree – one for me, one for my brother. I had already guessed the other boxes held a sweater with an encyclopedia (‘C’ was missing on the shelf), a shirt with some nuts and bolts, and a shoe-box sized box that I suspected held something small, like a necklace or earrings.
My parents liked to make the gift-guessing game challenging…they always added something to a box so shaking the box wouldn’t reveal the contents. We loved the challenge of trying to figure out which of my dad’s tools gave weight to the boxes. We rarely guessed what caused the rattles…could be nails, nuts, bolts, wall plates, outlet boxes, or a myriad of other goodies housed in his tool boxes in the garage.
After what seemed like months of staring at the big boxes, we finally got to open them on Christmas Eve. I tore the paper away and saw a picture of a TV on the box. Not trusting that’s what was in the box (they were also famous for reusing boxes), I yanked the flaps and busted the staples out – it really was a 13” black and white TV…for MY ROOM! I squealed with excitement – it was the best gift EVER!
Next to a tablet PC, iPod, Kindle, or any of the current gaming systems, this gift seems like the punch line to a bad joke. But back then, we didn’t have home computers; portable music was on a Walkman radio/cassette player; paperback and hard cover were the only book reading choices; and we played Breakout and Pong on our Atari console.
Of course, the TV was more than just a TV. It meant security and hope for better times. Even as a child, I knew my parents wouldn’t spend money they didn’t have. I never asked if we were broke, but I got my answer with every “we can’t afford it” my parents said. After several lean years, the TV seemed so lavish; I almost forgot we weren’t wealthy.
This year, Christmas is coming up like a jet touching down on a landing strip. I want to clinch my eyes shut so Christmas doesn’t run right over me. Instead, I stand my ground, wide-eyed and ready to take it like a mom (ha, ha). I swear I went to sleep on December 17th and woke up to find it is December 22nd. How the days in between passed so quickly, I don’t know.
This time of year is just an exaggeration of how time passes the rest of the year. As I get older, the hands on the clock seem to move faster. Sometimes I feel like I’m scrambling along on the treadmill and someone keeps turning the speed dial up. My feet move as fast as I can make them, but I get further behind. If it cranks up any more, I’ll surely drop my bowl of ice cream.
I have the perfect gift for myself this year: time. I can always use it, and there is no chance of returns, exchanges or do-overs. Not just any time, though…no, this time is special. It’s writing time.
Ever since I finally finished the story I posted last week (The Collector), I’ve been disturbed by the amount of time it took me to get to that point (over 3 months). I’ve been discouraged about my lack of progress on my novel writing (um, none). I know life still happens and I’ve a lot to do, but surely I can do a better job carving out writing time.
I’m going to start by using three hours the day after Christmas, with the goal of writing the backstory for the 3rd character in my novel. With my hot beverage on my desk, to warm my fingers and my brain, I’ll see if I can lay out the first draft. (If my brain functions well, I’ll stick to hot tea; if I need a little kick start, I’ll go for spiced cider…and if my brain and creativity abandon me, I’ll drown my sorrows in a mug of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream on top.) One way or another, words will get on the page.
It may not be a black and white TV, but this gift will make my heart happy this Christmas.
What was your best Christmas gift ever? What would you like that you have not received? Are you doing anything for “you” this holiday season?