The only way I’m going to get though this broke Christmas is to be constantly grateful for what I have been given. I will list the greatest gifts I’ve received at different Christmases (this is a WordPress prompt, by the way) and a little history about each.
1. The red remote control car
This is the earliest gift I remember receiving from Santa. The year was 1985, and remote control cars had just gotten a little smaller but no less clumsy, with their giant antennae and poor turning radii. But this car was cool; it traveled fast across our hardwood floors, peeled around corners, made a sweet backing-up sound. It was pretty low to the ground (might have been a Corvette, in theory) and could clear most couches and chairs, which was delightful. I was five, just old enough to work the remote control. I felt like a superhero, making my little car burn doughnuts into the family room floor. Yes, that car (which is still somewhere in my parents’ basement, I believe) is the gift that signifies “ultimate super toy” in my subconscious.
2. My first pet, a bunny I named Flopsy
Was he there on Christmas morning? Yes. Flopsy was a chunky fellow, white with long gray ears and a gray nose. I loved him. I was nine and my parents finally gave in to my constant pleading for a rabbit. Our next door neighbors had an outdoor hutch with several bunnies and I had spent a lot of time playing with them (luckily, our neighbors’ children were all grown, so I didn’t really have to share “my” bunnies with anyone), and I swore up and down I’d dutifully care for my own rabbit, would give it my life, if necessary. And I did take pretty good care of Flopsy; he was low maintenance except for his cage, which we kept in the middle of the living room. It got extremely smelly if I didn’t clean it at least once a week, and therein lay the problem. Cleaning it every single week was a time-consuming, messy job; I quickly understood why most people keep their rabbits outdoors. But having my pet inside was important to me, it meant I could hang out with him all the time, and I didn’t have to worry that he was cold, or hungry or thirsty. Gradually I got better about cleaning his cage, and I spent some time researching rabbit health and nutrition. Flopsy lived a few years, growing chunkier despite my best efforts (I worry that this was a side affect of his cage being set up pretty close to the TV). Sadly, he contracted some nasty rodent flu and died within a few days. After learning what it was to care for something small and vulnerable, I learned what it was to lose that fragile thing, to be completely powerless to save it. This was also a kind of gift, something awful but essential to know.
3. The replacement tooth
Six or seven years ago I went over the handlebars of my bike and got pretty banged up. The worst injury was to my front tooth, which died that day and slowly began shriveling up. An excellent dentist told me it would gradually turn darker and uglier and then one day it would fall out. The dead tooth did indeed get browner and deader and it caused me much distress. I was self-conscious of it, I stopped smiling in photos. And there was always the fear I’d wake up with a gaping hole where my front tooth had been. And so, last year my mother gave me the greatest Christmas gift of my adult life, a fine new tooth. She knew how much it bothered me (and as I’ve been without health insurance for a while now, how I was unable to get it fixed), and, being a good, no, a great mother, she had it all taken care of for me, all I had to do was sit in the dentist’s chair and space out.