Gift

[Dear readers: This is the last post of 2011. I’ll be taking a hiatus next weekend, Dec. 24–25, returning with new stories on Jan. 1, 2012. Thanks for joining the journey.]

Sometimes I get a “Florida ache.”

Not a longing or a pining for Florida, but more like a “pang,” a memory tic that includes sights, sounds, smells.

It’s a quick succession of impressions: driving through South Florida at night, the briny-sweet ocean air and heavy humidity; an oldies station; a flea market on a hot, sunny day; my parents’ house and dock; a restaurant called “The Fishery” where, in late May 2008, Dad and I had one of our last lunches together: a cup of fantastic seafood gumbo and a mug of beer each.

Truth be told, I don’t care for Florida. Never have and likely never will. It’s a Florida ache because that’s the last place I saw my parents alive.

***

Mom and Dad loved Christmastime.

Perhaps it was because they were married on Dec. 21, 1957. Poinsettias lined the Greensburg United Methodist church; it must’ve seemed like Christmas before Christmas to them.

In many respects (and more than just at holidays) I was a lucky kid, although at the time I remember bemoaning my role in the “Family Project.” But right out of the gate, the ’rents had me and baby brother covered: a car dashboard toy worth pissing my pants over; the over-the-top gift blowout of our second year in Maryland … and the hands-down, gosh-golliest, damn-near-loveliest December of all—1976.

That’s because, like my parents 19 years before, I was in love during yuletide. But lemme back up a bit.

By November, I’d cleared out the deadwood to make room for the Next Big Thing. Linda and Calvary Church, over. Working at the country club, done. Even Mound Westonka got into the act and buried a time capsule in the school’s front courtyard, on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Back in school on Dec. 6, I helped Jim, editor-in-chief of The Smoke Signal, the school paper, clear out a back room past the cafeteria so we could turn it into the official school paper office. We were launching new ventures. Exciting times.

So when Dad took me and Brian to Bethel Methodist, their new church, for its annual Christmas Bazaar and Smörgasbord on Saturday, Dec. 4, I had no idea “love” would appear in the shape of a shy, long-haired blonde named Kim Swedlund. The details of that December with Kim are better chronicled in one of this blog’s first posts, so in a little over a year, we’ve now come full circle.

On Dec. 14, I wrote in the diary: “Today was the anniversary of when I first really ‘saw’ Linda … at the Calvary Church Christmas choir concert … but I don’t see her at all anymore … don’t think I ever will again if things go good with Kim.”

Well, they did “go good.” All the way into the new year.

At home—that little renovated summer cottage—Christmas that year was cozy and festive. One diary entry positively bubbles over: “Ho ho, a merry old soul, Christmas time is here, Ha, Ha, Whee … boogie Christmas tree lights … the smell of fresh pumpkin pie cooking in the oven, Ho, Ho, Ho!!!” And with Kim around, it was all the better. The thing about being in love is the goofy-great Silly Goggles it puts before your eyes. You see things differently—not necessarily accurately, but differently.

The Christmas presents: that year they went out to friends (Skeeze and I chipped in to buy our buddy Sara The Beatles’ White Album), Kim and I went to the mall and bought presents for her friends and family (I bought my brother a pair of mirrored sunglasses for his Skijammers trips). That year I got two LPs (Boston’s eponymous record and Wings Over America), sweaters and shirts, a $10 bill from Grandma and Grandpa Maupin, lots of stocking stuffers and a new light for my work desk.

But re-reading the diary I’m forced to ask: what did I give? Outside of Brian’s glasses, I’ve no record of what I bought other family members, or even Kim. The diary does report that on Dec. 28, Kim gave me “a late Christmas present. A choker.” I vaguely remember giving her a bracelet with my name on it, but that’s not borne out in the diary.

So what. Is there a final tally of who gave what to whom and when? Who cares about the records, clothes, lamp, and even cold cash? The gifts that have stayed with me are buried in the memories: Kim’s shy smile while holding hands in the church balcony during the Christmas service, my parents standing with other members of the congregation celebrating wedding anniversaries in December, the ski party with high school friends, splitting our sides laughing, doing jumps and tricks on the slopes of Hyland Hills …

The gift didn’t need to be wrapped, labeled and placed under a tree.

It had already been given. And is still, always, being received.

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~ by completelyinthedark on December 18, 2011.

3 Responses to “Gift”

  1. Christmas memories- so powerful- the nostalgia, moods that come with the season, and like you said the sounds, smells, feel of moments past. Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. Here’s wishing the best new memories to your family this holiday. 🙂

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Unlike in 2011, this will NOT be the last post of 2012, but the last time I reblog back-to-back. All-new post up next weekend. For now, enjoy your holiday and this trip back to Christmas 1976!

    Like

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