Life & LaughterDec 01, 2023 12:50PM ● By Peri Kinder
It was the Christmas season as I wandered the aisles at Gibson’s Discount Center with a $5 bill crumpled in my pocket. It was 1975 and parents didn’t care if their 7-year-old wandered alone through a store.
I’d earned money to buy my parents Christmas gifts and I had to find the perfect presents. I imagined mom’s surprise when she unwrapped a brand new purse that wasn’t filled with broken crayons, Cheerios and used tissues. I pictured dad’s excitement as he opened the model airplane he would assemble at the kitchen table. I would be an example of humility as they raved about my thoughtfulness.
Dad agreed to drive me to Gibson’s and we climbed into our blue Ford Pinto. Once there, I told him he couldn’t follow me, that I wanted the presents to be a surprise. He hung out at the soda fountain drinking root beer so I could shop with privacy.
It didn’t take long to realize my $5 wouldn’t cover the cost of a purse or a model airplane. My heart sank as I walked the aisles. Everything was so expensive. Maybe mom wanted an oven mitt or a wooden spoon. Perhaps dad would like a small bottle of model glue.
Then I saw it. A pint-sized, cut-glass pitcher that gleamed under the store’s fluorescent lighting. It looked so elegant. It wasn’t big enough to mix a half-gallon of Kool-Aid but I didn’t think mom would care. She would cherish it for all eternity. And it was only $3.
That left a present for dad. Walking past the drugstore aisle, I saw a mini-size bottle of Brut aftershave for less than $2. Mission accomplished.
I wrapped the presents and placed them under the tree, right up front. On Christmas Eve, I had the holiday insomnia where you try to sleep but you hear jingle bells and ho-ho-hos and prancing reindeer on the roof. Finally, it was morning and I dashed down the stairs.
I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year. Probably a Madame Alexander doll, a Nancy Drew book and a journal with a heart-shaped lock. What I do remember is being so excited for my parents to open their presents.
Mom unwrapped her gift first. I watched with the giddy excitement of a child who knows she nailed the perfect present. She opened her glass pitcher and held it up for everyone to see. It sparkled in the tree’s lights.
Dad was so grateful for his little bottle of Brut that he never used it. The tiny green bottle sat on the bathroom shelf for at least a decade. I asked him once why he didn’t use it. Didn’t he like it?
“I love it!” he said. “But if I use it, it will be gone and then I won’t have it anymore.”
I get it, dad. I feel the same way about the expensive bottle of tequila in my office.
Mom filled the pitcher with her homemade syrup we poured on pancakes, waffles and French toast. She used it for all my childhood. My grandkids ate pancakes with syrup poured from that pitcher. I think she even took it with her when she moved to North Carolina.
It takes so little to make a child feel loved. It’s sometimes hard to use the gifts kids give you for the holidays, but they’re always watching. Wear the macaroni necklace. Use the syrup pitcher. Put on the reindeer earrings. Your child will never forget.λ