MY BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!
Of course we all know the answer is Jesus. Sometimes the Sunday school answer really is right. But I guess this blog title really means the carnal gifts we get from each other. Or from Santa.
As a little girl, I might have told you my best gift was a doll. She’s a beautiful Madam Alexander doll from Mama and Daddy…I-I mean Santa. I still have her, a collector’s item. Her feet are hinged 3 ways for flats, pumps and high heels.
She came with a skate trunk full of handmade clothes. Not bought clothes. A dear friend of Mama’s, Mrs. Ruggles, worked for months sewing, trimming with beads, painting…yes, one dress is hand painted. As a child I adored it all but couldn’t fully appreciate the handwork and hours of love it represented. I played with her for many years before relegating her to the attic and marrying my real doll.
Before Mama died, one year she re-gifted my doll to me. My collectable had collected dust, her clothes faded and musty in storage at Mama’s. Two more of Mom’s dear friends, Miss Katherine and Miss Geneva, joined in Mama’s surprise. They sorted, repaired, washed, mended and ironed each piece. Mama then layered them back into my red and white trunk, separating each outfit with crisp, white tissue paper.
THIS time, as an adult, I DID fully appreciate the gift and labor of love. I even wrote the real Madam Alexander and CEO before she died and inquired about buying replacement shoes (all were missing) for the unusual 1950-something doll. She mailed me several pairs, gratis. (If you're interested in seeing the doll and some of her clothes, check out the photos at this blog's end. Men, you don't have to wade through that here!)
But I’m not a little girl. So my answer today would be different. My best gift arrived unexpectedly two years ago just before Christmas Day.
As our three children married, had kids and moved away we knew there might come a season when everyone did not make it home. Doug and I had just spent a week at Kent’s house celebrating with Katy’s family too. Kimberly and John had recently moved to Minneapolis and could not make it home. This was the first Christmas we’d ever celebrated without everyone there. Bittersweet. For her. For us.
Weeks prior, I was determined to make it as good for them as I could. I packed 3 large boxes full of gifts, candy and love notes for each of the 6 family members. Abstentia celebrations stink. But at least during December, they’d open a package a week from home.
Whenever we chatted on the phone, Kimberly sounded a bit sad, but resigned. I kept up the fake cheerfulness, for her sake. Then I’d hang up and cry a little.
Even though our week at Kent’s was great, I dreaded coming home to our empty house. It drizzled the 3 hour drive back…matched my mood. We stopped to sale shop a bit (for next year.) I meandered through the store, dragging my feet. Doug waited patiently, playing with his new Blackberry. “Just checking my email.”
Finally home, I lugged bags into the dark house, Doug on my heels with suitcases. As I entered the dark living room, he turned on the light. I spotted a huge box in front of the unlit tree.
“What in the world?” I wondered aloud. Oh, Doug probably bought some lawn furniture and left it for me to find, knowing I’d be sad today.
"Doug, do you know about this?" I kept probing.
He didn't answer so I stooped to read the tag:
WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE FOR CHRISTMAS? OPEN THIS BOX TO LEARN HOW WISE SANTA CAN BE.”
I spun around and looked at Doug’s still expressionless face. He KNOWS what I want most. And it CAN'T be.
My heart pounded. Afraid it was a joke, I warned, "Doug, you better not be messin' with me..."
Then I heard music coming from the large box. Very softly voices sang, “I’ll be home for Christ---mas. You can count on me…”
I muttered something about "my children", wishing out loud. I held my breath as Doug lifted the bottomless box. Inside I found...
Well, just see for yourself in this video (turn up your speaker volume):
Oh yes! My best Christmas gift ever was very carnal. Our family in the flesh! As I hugged my 4 precious grandchildren, I spotted their sneaky parents in the dark kitchen, video camera in hand, taping through their own tears and laughter. Kimberly passed the camera off to John, who finally put it down when I demanded a hug.
They drove 2 hard days to surprise me. Weeks went into planning it with Doug. Packages I’d so carefully wrapped were never mailed. Doug took them to his office instead of the P.O. He’d open each then describe on the phone, “Kimberly, tell her you got the candy garland and loved the red sweater and…”
Hours before this, while I meandered the store shopping, Doug phoned Kimberly to be sure they’d arrived at our home.
“Yes, we’re here. All unloaded. Van’s hidden down the street. Box is out, Daddy. Just let us know in time to put the kids and tape recorder under there.”
“She’s still shopping.” Checking email my foot!
They even had time to go to the grocery store, stock up and cook supper.
Yes siree! Family, food and I didn’t have to cook. I submit…does it get any better than this?
Maybe. But that’s called The Marriage Feast of the Lamb. And when Kimberly was three, she promised the Lord she'd bring the tea!