season grinds to it’s
inevitable conclusion as it does each year, and as I have been
running around collecting gifts for those I love, I have been asking myself: Out of the hundreds of gifts I
have received over the years, what were the ones that really stood out as important to me, and why?
Upon reflection, it's odd to me that the gifts I remember most were all store-bought, well-marketed
creations of our mass merchant world, but there was always some added factor that transformed
the gift from "just another thing" into something truly special in my eyes. The gifts I remember most?
1977: Star Wars Early Bird Box
My Star Wars
fanaticism was in its
earliest stages that winter. I had yet to even see the film, but I was
already in the bag, having voraciously read the junior novelization, the movie tie-in, the comic books, and
every damn Starlog article I could find on the subject, as I eagerly awaited its arrival at our drive-in theater
the following summer. At some point I became aware of that holy grail for the young Star Wars fan: The
Early Bird Certificate package. This was a cardboard sleeve containing a mail away gift certificate for the
first four Star Wars Action Figures: Luke, Leia, Chewbacca and R2-D2. I was under the impression that
these were ultra rare, in fact, I had never actually seen one, and to this day I have no idea how my mom
found it, but I was elated when I opened it on Christmas morning. And talk about a gift that kept on giving!
I got an additional four months of anticipation for the figures themselves. Never has a child been so happy
to receive an empty cardboard box for Christmas.
1980: The Atari 2600
This was my
first real video game
system. What made this one special aside from being my first,
(and you never forget your first), was that my folks got it for me the year that all of my aunts, uncles and
cousins came to spend Christmas with us in
of our extended family were together like that, and that post-Christmas week was an absolute blast as my
cousins and I played endless tournaments of Space Invaders, Combat and Dodge ‘Em.
By this time I
had discovered Heavy
Metal, and it had rapidly become the soundtrack to my
stylish 10th grade existence. (Click [HERE] to read Heavy Metal Mortgage, for a deeper examination
of the subject) That Christmas I had asked for a Cassette Walkman, so that I could step up my metal
consumption into the preferred 16-hour-a-day range. One day after cross country practice, my mom
and I had stopped into a music shop and I came across the coolest cassette player ever. Made by
Pioneer, the player in question looked just about bullet-proof, armored as it was in metal and a black
heavy plastic trimmed in yellow. It even featured auto reverse and music search functions, an
embarrassment of riches compared to even the big stereo in my room. However, the thing cost an arm
and a leg, and I had a sense that times were tough money-wise. So I put it out of my mind as a realistic
gift, knowing that I would rock just as hard with whatever I ended up with. A few weeks later on
Christmas morning, I was totally shocked and thrilled to find the Pioneer under the tree with my name
on it. I don’t know that I ever appreciated a gift more, and you know? I think I did rock that much harder.
Needless to say
I was devastated two springs later when the thing slipped from my belt
clip while I was harrowing one of our fields on the family tractor. My pride and joy bounced under the
toothy framework of metal before I could bring the tractor to a halt. As I picked it up, I saw that it now
had a neat hole punctured through the heavy plastic armor just below the play button. Sadly, it would rock no
more. I still have it though. Maybe one day I will get it fixed, but even in its current state, it’s yet another
tangible and precious reminder of my parent’s love for me. That will always rock, unbreakable.
Of course there are many other gifts I received as a kid that were memorable:
All were great
gifts, but they don’t
hold a candle to those first three. Those are the ones that still
resonate with me, and the reason I work so hard to find just the right gift each year for those that I love,
as I try to pass on a little of that magic that I was always so lucky to receive.
New contributor Liam wrote in with:
hand-made an action figure
playhouse for me, complete with trapdoors, rope swing, etc.
Somehow handmade things are just more valuable to me. I once got a canoe cover for one of my racing canoes,
which is very dear to me. And an IPod from my wife Sue one year. The reason it was such a special gift to me
was that it was a sacrifice of money for her at the time. Of course, the best present is always time with family
and friends because although toys break, memories do not.”
Chloe of Scotland’s take was as unique as she is:
“I don't think
I've ever had a cool
Christmas present, although the Caboodles I got from my paternal
gran one year was pretty nifty. (Caboodles is a pink (well, mine was) make-up box marketed towards teenie
boppers. I had mine until I moved to Scotland and now I wish I hadn't donated it to charity because all my
make-up is in a shoe-box. Doh!) The best Christmas I ever had was the first one I spent away from my family
(when I met Mark). We boycotted Xmas that year and have been doing that ever since!”
was a simple T-Shirt. At the time, I was fond of T-shirts with big glittery decals - Star Wars, race cars,
whatever. And when I opened the gift and found this T-Shirt inside, I noted that it conformed to the spec:
jersey style with red sleeves and a white body. The decal was nothing special - it was a dog looking for his
buried bones. The dog was thinking "Just when I got it all together, I forgot where I put it."
This wasn't particularly cool. It wasn't asked for. But it was all right.
The reason I was so blown away by this gift, is that when I opened it, I was surprised by a
flash of insight. I saw my dad taking time away from his job to go to the store, to look at all the decals to
pick one out that would make me happy. I knew that money was tight. The idea that my parents would
spring for the extra cash to add a totally unnecessary decal to my shirt just to make me happy somehow
gave me a view into their hearts.
I knew in an instant that they didn't just love me. The LOVED me. Their love was the overwhelming,
limitless, self-sacrificing love that a parent has for his or her children. In that moment, I saw the tens of thousands
of little things and big things they had done out of love for me. I knew that they would do anything for me. Never
had I felt so much love. All because of a stupid T-Shirt.”
Happy Holidays, everyone. May you all receive a little magic this year. As a matter of fact, I think
I’ll try to get a little magic right now. Ohhhhh, Juuuuuu-lie!