Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Surprise

I guess the cat is out of the bag so I can relate this Christmas story. 

Since Christmas is that time to feel generous, you make a list of all your family and friends and figure out the perfect present for them. Then a shopping expedition begins that sometimes takes several days. 

Usually I try to figure out something special to do for the season. A special gift or an unusual treat is always top of mind. Years past the one present that has created the feeling for Christmas have been birdseed bags on all the neighbor’s porch, cookies and cakes for the local hospital pediatric wards, songs for disabled veterans, dog treats for the local vet’s office, coffee cake and earrings for a snowed in mother, serving food at the homeless shelter, and feeding the ducks and seagulls at the park. 

This year I couldn’t decide on something new for that special surprise. I had already given myself a present and I didn’t have anyone else to buy a gift for so I was stuck. 

Then I thought of this Christmas story.

 For years, my brother and I have discussed how Christmas around our house was the most special day. It wasn’t just about gifts and food, but it was one of the few days the family spent time together. Maybe it was about the gifts and food. 

We’ve had several hours of laughing over the presents under the tree and how proud our father was on this special day. The presents weren’t really as impressive as the wrapping and presentation. Well, some presents were impressive like when my brother got a car and I got an electric razor. 

Most, if not all, of those presents have come and gone and are hard to recall. My brother had one that he spoke of often. I don’t know if it was Christmas or some scout project when my father got a telescope for him. Since we lived in the city I don’t remember trying to look at the sky under all the streetlights, but maybe we did. Dad may have driven my brother and his telescope out into the countryside to get a closer glimpse of the moon and the stars. 

Like his chemistry set or electric train, the telescope was not passed down to me but put up in the attic. At some time the attic was emptied before we sold the house, but there is no evidence of the telescope.

Today I was invited to accompany my brother and his wife to a train display in a town her family lived. Since my calendar was free and the weather was nice and it sounded like fun, we took the journey together. After the usual direction mix-ups even with the finest technology, we came to the destination. A large red hardware store even had a travel train out front. Upon entering we found an amazing layout of nine or ten trains traveling through little towns, amusement parks, military camps, Indian forts, Christmas streets and an assortment of trees and forest and lakes. Every detail meticulously placed showing a love for the hobby. The engineer said there were school buses coming and estimated 30,000 would come to see the transportation marvel. Everyone stood in amazement as the little engines with their cargo traveled back and forth in a looping path. 

Lunch was next on the agenda but like the original location finding effort, we had to stumble onto the site rather than following the map. The first place we would be dining turned out to be closed. We decided that in a small town, Wednesday must be the day everyone was closed.  Just a few doors down we found another restaurant and it was open so we took the plunge. 

Up a long flight of cement stairs between painted brick walls holding on to metal pipe railings, we reached the second floor and found a booth to relax into. An attentive cute waitress brought our menus and took our drink orders. The comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant had all the small town accoutrements. Knowing there was a cook in the kitchen and not a chief, we placed our order and enjoyed a warm family conversation with several laughs. Since my brother and sister-in-law would not let me take the waitress home with me, we left stuffed and made the return trip down the steps without incident. 

Our next tourist site was also closed, so we decided it was time for the journey home. Sitting in the back seat I could enjoy the family banter on directions and misdirection’s of two people who have traveled all over the planet. 

There was a brief stop so my sister-in-law could put some poinsettias on her family plot. I found that a very sweet gesture that my brother and I do not do to my father’s resting place. Of all the activities that go along with the passing of life, I find this the most touching. Who will come talk to you when you are gone?

A brief detour to the old transit companies’ location blocks away from where my sister-in-law grew up and where her father had work, we viewed the original artwork painted on the walls where buses used to sit but only through chained fences. Being impressed by the attempt of the city to embrace the art community but I wonder the location next to a block full of crack houses.

So I was returned to my abode only to get a phone call. A jolly voice told me there was some sort of surprise delivered while I was gone. He said it was in my house, but it was not for me. 

I returned to my brother and handed him a telescope. I said it was from Santa directed to “Chris” or “Chick”, but he couldn’t decide which it was so I was to figure it out. I knew whom it was for. Surprise!

Now I will still venture out on Christmas day for my daily feeding of the critters by the lake and marvel in their thanksgiving, but today Christmas came early.

1 comment:

Art said...

Cliff, this story, simple, sweet and clear is exceptional (to me). One of my favorites, FOR SURE!