Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Merry Memories Countdown #2

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Four Identical Gifts30

Christmas at my grandmother’s house was amazing. It was the 1960’s and wasn’t everything about the 60’s amazing in one way (saying goodbye to the innocence of our communities, but still enjoying the vestiges) or another (saying hello to drugs, the sexual revolution and rampant atheism)? It was that time when our parents were still secure in sending their little boys to the grocery store down the street alone for a loaf of bread, but not so secure about sending them out into the world to become the breadwinners. All their fears turned out to be well-founded. It was the end of the American innocence.

But my grandmother’s house was insulated Christmas magic. Her tree was silver and there was a revolving light at the base that made it change from pink to green to blue over and over again. There was plastic mistletoe hanging over the furnace  and if you gave it a tug, it would play jingle bells. There was an enclosed back porch that  had all the fun of a real outdoors back porch, except it was enclosed, so you could sort of play outside and still be warm in December. There were dolls and little cars and trucks and just lots of old stuff kids loved out there. And, I know that you had a grandmother, too, so you can smell that house as you read this. And everything you are smelling had a real homemade dish behind it (except for the cranberry sauce, of course,and it wouldn’t be Christmas without sliceable cranberry sauce shaped like the can). There was an old tin cookie jar that had a row of penguins around it and that thing was perpetually full of teacakes. Yes. It was that kind of place.

And there were people. Lots of old people, who really were pretty young (now that I’m 54).  There was Uncle Billie Lee and Aunt Eunice. They just came over for a little while to see us because they lived in town and we lived far away (Two hours is very far when you’re a kid going to your grandma’s house.) Then there was Uncle Jack and Aunt Marie. Uncle Jack was the funniest man I had ever met. Seriously. And there was Uncle Clifford and Aunt Estelle. They were not always there because he was a preacher and they lived far away, too. But whenever he was there, there would be a lot of singing. You could count on that.  And then there was Uncle Bob and Aunt Lois. They were the only ones who still had small children, besides us. So they were the ones we could not wait to see (even though they lived very near us and we all went to the same congregation, it was just a lot more fun to see them at Dunca’s and Daddy Duncan’s house….So, yeah, I do know that you are jealous because your grandmother did not have a cool name like Dunca. I’m sad for all you people who just had a “Granny” or a “Grandma”.)

When it was time to open the presents, it was very fun. There was none of that waiting- till-it’s-your-turn-and-everyone-is-watching-you business. Whenever Daddy Duncan gave you a present, you could just let the paper rip. I wish I had some real photographs of times around the Christmas tree so I could know if it was really as magical as the pictures in my memory.

And there were always presents for everybody from dear old Aunt Lizzie. On this particular year, the three of us girls and our cousin, Jill, had done enough “tree peeking” to know that there were four identical little boxes scattered around in that pile of gifts that were clearly marked for each of us, from Aunt Lizzie. (We dearly loved Aunt Lizzie. She lived only about two blocks from Dunca, so we had frequent adventure treks to Aunt Lizzie’s. She had fluffy gray-hair and was pleasingly plump and wore pretty polyester dresses with pearls. I did not know it, at the time, but I now know that she was an integral part of bringing my whole family to the Lord. Thus, I love her even more, now.)

So we made a plan. Nobody would open her present from Aunt Lizzie till we all had them in our laps. Every time one of us got the present that was identically boxed, wrapped and ribboned, the rest of us would loudly say, “Wait! Don’t open that one till we all have ours, so we can all find out at the same time!”

At last, we all had them. I could be heard above all of the visiting and laughter, “Now look everybody! We all have our presents from Aunt Lizzie! One…Two…Three…GO!” We tore into those little boxes with a vengeance and then we all got perfectly quiet, turned red in our faces, smiled at each other  and demurely placed the lids back on our little matching boxes…of panties. And we politely requested that Uncle Bob could show us what was in his big box over in the corner.

And the morals to this story are:

  1. Don’t make a big, loud plan about doing something till you know the details. (Maybe don’t put it on facebook till you’re sure you really do want everyone to know.)
  2. The mere fact that it’s pretty much identical to what everyone else is doing, may not be a sure-fire sign that you would want to participate.
  3. When you’re involved in publicly doing or saying something that you might not want to remember, just “put a lid on it” at the earliest moment possible and move on to something better.



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