Every year at Christmas, my friend Dick Summer uses his blog to tell Christmas stories sent in by readers and by people who remember listening to him on the radio. By the way, if you remember Dick from his distinguished career on the radio, he’ll be a guest on WBZ in Boston on Christmas Eve around 10 PM. I lifted this Christmas story directly from Dick’s blog, but I don’t think he’ll mind, because I wrote it. Merry Christmas, everyone.
I still remember my grandparents Christmas traditions. My cousins and I would build our blanket fort under the dining room table. The tree filled the little, unheated sunroom off the living room, unheated so that the tree wouldn’t dry out so fast. The tree had bubble lights on it. Remember those?
We always had turkey and my grandmother’s turkey always had more legs than any turkey was ever born with. I don’t know whether she purchased extra legs, or claimed that the largest wing joints were legs. We had pumpkin pie too, but my aunts and uncles always raved over my grandmother’s plum pudding which she doused in brandy and set afire before bringing it to the table. That stuff was disgusting–worse than fruit cake. I don’t know how anyone ate it.
I was still a little kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old and I don’t know how the issue came up, but I do remember my grandmother sitting me down in her old, dark kitchen and telling me: “It’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts.” I also clearly remember thinking at the time that my grandmother was crazy. I had an allowance, maybe it was a dime a week, maybe a quarter, but it certainly didn’t allow me to buy any of the cool toys I lusted after. It wasn’t even enough to keep me in caps for my official Lone Ranger six shooters. I didn’t care what people thought about me, I wanted the cool presents any adult I knew could get for me, but I couldn’t get for myself.
I’m older now than my grandmother was when she told me that, and today I know she was right–not for little kids, but certainly for adults. The fact is, I have everything I need and a lot of what I want. Nobody likes me enough and has enough money to get me anything I can’t afford to get for myself. I’m sure there are people who have enough money to do that. I’m equally sure I don’t know any of them. When my friends take to Facebook to send me Christmas greetings, I like it. When my junior prom date sends me a Christmas card, it warms my heart. Things would be quite different for me without the life’s lessons I learned from her. I doubt I would have been open to my wife if I hadn’t failed miserably to get back together with Miss Prom Date about five months before I met the woman I’ve spent my life with.
I think about what my grandmother said that day every Christmas, and any time I remember her. It’s not crazy once you grow up. It really is the thought–not the gift that counts.