Daddy was less patient for Christmas to hurry up and arrive than us kids. He was anxious to watch us experience the flurry of opening gifts and the joy in our expressions. At our house, we didn’t wait until Christmas morning: we opened our gifts after supper on Christmas Eve. Miraculously while we were eating at the table Santa left gifts under the tree and filled our stockings. The long wait was for the last person to finish eating which of course was Mother. I don’t recall her ever getting in a hurry about anything.
When it “was time” we scurried into the living room, a long room with doors at each end where one could entertain without everyone else in the house being involved (or heard). Though now, all three doors were wide open.
One of the kids, or Daddy laid claim on calling out names pasted on gift-wrapped boxes and stationed themselves under the tree moving quickly so no one had to wait another second to hear their name called and proceed to ripping paper off packages like our life depended on some record speed of getting a box open.
Chaos ensued as everyone opened gift after gift all at once with complete abandon. The only pause to the paper and bows flying was to survey the contents, quickly thank the giver and move to opening the next present. It was all over in a matter of minutes. That is, except for Mother. She quietly sat with a stack of gifts slowly opening them one by one while the rest of us were knee deep in torn paper and empty boxes.
There was one wrapped gift left under the tree. It was a large box, big enough to hold four maybe five inflated basket balls. It had no ribbon or bow, not even a name tag. Who was it for? Mother remembered wrapping it but she couldn’t recall what was inside this gargantuan box. She rose from her chair with a now smaller stack of still unopened gifts beside it to inspect the mystery package. She lifted the box checking the weight for a clue. Then she gave it a gentle shake. We all watched in anticipation as to who might be the lucky recipient. She began removing paper in slow-motion (just a tad slower than her typical pace) in the event she remembered who it was for before completely unwrapping the box. It didn’t stir a memory. She carefully broke apart the tapped seam holding the large box closed and peeked inside without revealing its contents.
“Oh, it’s for Belinda. Your daddy saw this and bought it for you.”
I pulled out the wadded newspapers that cushioned the fragile gift. When I could get my hands around this unknown ceramic object I pulled it from the box. It was a cream colored, gold painted accented, possibly least attractive elephants I had ever seen. And it was mine. Daddy knew I love elephants and bought this one for me.
I treasure this elephant. Pretty or not, this big ole elephant has moved with me several times over the years. I named it Fred after my dad.