By BOB BRIDGE
It was that time of year.
Just as sure as eggnog would magically appear on grocery shelves across Lawrence County, my mom and sister would be calling with their annual inquiry: “What do you want for Christmas?”
And, as usual, my response would be: “Nothing, thank you.”
I learned long ago the beauty of Christmas is in the giving, not the receiving.
As a child, my list of longings reached prodigious proportions. And as a rule, I was bestowed with a bounty of gifts.
Christmas hasn’t been the same for my family since my father died a few years ago. No one enjoyed Christmas morning more than Bill Bridge. Situated between the fireplace and the tinseled tree, he would tenderly rub my hound dog’s ears and glow with delight each time one of his grandchildren opened a present. He cherished those moments.
On what would turn out to be one of his final Christmas mornings, he plotted and executed a ruse that left his only son stunned and speechless.
Dad and I agreed that Christmas is for children, so we spent nearly all of our shopping energies on my sister’s three lovely daughters.
On this particular Christmas morning, Dad was particularly pumped up.
“What are you so excited about?” I asked.
“We’ve got a special surprise for the girls,” he revealed. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
In the bedroom was a big box emblazoned with words indicating a new computer rested within.
I knew the girls had been begging for a computer. My sister had told them to cross that item off their lists, because it just wasn’t financially feasible at the time.
Dad’s plan was to wait until all the presents were opened and then declare: “You know, I think Santa left one more present in my bedroom.”
At that point, my mom and sister were to lug the computer into the living room.
I couldn’t wait to see those adorable, astonished faces.
Dad and I passed the next few hours talking sports and politics.
The quiet conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the girls and their parents. When asked if we should eat before or after opening the presents, the girls made it clear lunch could wait.
The impromptu postal workers quickly delivered the packages, and Laura, the youngest grandchild, opened the first gift. Next was Angie, then Kari.
One by one, the carefully concealed presents were unwrapped and revealed for all to see. My sister took pictures, my mother uttered oohs and ahs, and I collected the wrinkled wrapping paper and stuffed it into a trash bag.
Ninety minutes later, we were finished.
After a pregnant pause, my dad delivered the line I had been waiting to hear: “You know, I think Santa left one more present in my bedroom.”
Goosebumps freckled my forearms as I awaited the special moment.
I had no idea how memorable this occasion would be.
My sister and mother appeared from the bedroom without the box. Instead, they toted a beautiful, blond guitar.
All eyes were trained on me. The girls, grins gleaming from ear to ear, watched as their flabbergasted, middle-aged uncle battled to keep his emotions in check.
My mom handed me the guitar and whispered, “Your dad loves your music. He wanted you to have this guitar so you could play for us again.”
I summoned just enough oxygen to whisper, “Thanks.”
Then, realizing just how desperately I needed to be rescued, my brother-in-law declared: “You know, I think I saw another present in there.”
My mom and sister soon returned with the package I had expected to see.
While the girls jumped for joy and hugged each other, I thought about how long it had been since I strummed a guitar. My beloved Ovation, supposedly secure in its case, had been stolen from my home while I was busy covering a basketball game several seasons ago.
I never replaced it.
I decided I no longer needed music in my life.
Dad, acutely aware I was mistaken, had righted the wrong.
I played that new guitar for my father each fall when we journeyed to the Panhandle for a month-long vacation. My uncle, his family, and many of our Florida friends would join us for late-night sing-alongs that would best be described as priceless if not entirely proficient.
My sister has suggested it would be easier to celebrate Christmas at her house this year.
I respectfully vetoed the idea, explaining my dog and I plan to spend Christmas in Bill Bridge’s living room, where the memories are as warm as the logs in the fireplace.
What do I want for Christmas?
Nothing at all, thank you.
I’m content to sit quietly, reveling in the laughter of my lovely nieces as they tease my healthy, happy mother. I’ll probably spend a lot of time rubbing my hound dog’s ears.
I figure a guy blessed with so much would be selfish to ask for more.
Bob Bridge welcomes comments at 812-276-9646 or email@example.com.