Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Unwrapped Present

I'm pretty fortunate to work with some incredible folks - one of whom shared this piece of his own childhood a while back.  After wiping my eyes, I wrote Rob, asking permission to share it with my friends in Blogland.    I was delighted when he said, "Yes."  
Merry Christmas, my friends!  
The Unwrapped Present
At this time of year, I often reflect on the Christmas mornings growing up in New Jersey.  The opening of presents, the wrapping paper flying everywhere, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sound of bacon sizzling on the stove, Christmas songs playing on the stereo, and the many hugs and smiles from my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends dropping in throughout the day.                                    
But there is one Christmas in particular that I recall each year. A Christmas morning that changed my life.                                  
I was eight years old. My only desire was that I wanted a "Johnny Lightning Racing Set" for Christmas. I had sent no less than five letters to Santa Claus asking and pleading for the gift. I remember writing all the reasons why I deserved the racing set, and how "I would never write to him again if he didn't leave it on Christmas Eve."       

Well, times were tight that year (... I only realized this sometime later), and instead of opening up the Johnny Lightning Racing Set with automatic lap counter and a lifetime membership into the Johnny Lightning Racing Club, I received two pairs of pants, a sweater, a small red truck, and a letter from Santa which I crumbled without reading.  

So instead of rejoicing on Christmas morning, I yelled, screamed and said I hated Santa Claus -- "the big fake" -- with all my might. My mother cried. My father said I didn't realize what I was saying. I was sent to my room with the crumpled Santa Claus letter in my hand.                                 

There in my room, I cried and cried. But somewhere between planning to write the President of the United States not to let Santa Claus into the country, and writing a nasty letter to Santa Claus, I picked up the crumpled letter from Santa now laying on my floor.                          

"Let's see what this big, fat jerk has to say," I remember yelling at the top of my lungs.                                
I sat down at my desk and read the letter from Santa Claus.                             
Dear Robert,                          
I am sorry if I have let down one of my best friends - you. I was not able to leave the gift you asked for, and I am sorry. But there is a present that you may have overlooked. It is not under the tree and it is not wrapped. It is not something you can plug in or assemble. It is with you every day of the year, and gives and gives even when it hurts.                                       
Remember when you struck-out in Little League this past season? Who was there to give you a comforting hug? Remember when you won the spelling contest? Who cheered the loudest you when you were awarded the winning prize? And remember when you were very sick this past fall? Who stayed with you all night long, held your hand, and placed a cool cloth of your forehead?                           

You have probably never thought about it in this way, but Robert as you continue to grow and cast doubt on much (...even on my very existence), realize that the most precious gift is one that is not wrapped or found under a tree. The unwrapped present is the love of a parent; the love for their son.                                
This very special gift is waiting for you right now -- your Mother and Father. Go and hug them tightly, and try to never let go. This Christmas day will pass all too quickly, but their love for you is timeless and beyond worth.  And, it is this love is what Christmas is all about.
Your friend,                                                          
Santa Claus                            

Now many years have passed since that Christmas morning, and the letter remains carefully preserved. I often reflect on how my Mother would stay by my bedside when I was ill, and I laugh when I picture my Father fast asleep snoring in the easy chair waiting for me to return home from the high school prom so many years ago.                

"Thank you Santa for showing a selfish eight year old boy the true meaning of Christmas. It has made all the difference in my life and in the lives of my children. I just wish I could have that unwrapped present right now."                         

Until Next Friday,   


Robert M. Hebeler

Copyright 2000-2013 All Rights Reserved by Robert M. Hebeler
......Me, too, Rob.   Me, too.
Hugs from Phoenix,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My First Worst Day

In case you're looking for an upbeat or humorous post, please feel free to skip this.
It's not my intent to be a "Debbie Downer" - but at the same time, I've been feeling a real need to write about something that changed my life forever.
...In doing so, perhaps someone will see this and not be left with unnecessary regrets.

But if you'll (please) come back on Christmas Eve, I've a special treat ... 
an excerpt from a colleague's website (that) I'm pretty sure will tug at your heartstrings!

December 5, 1981
I'll never forget the look on my (former) husband's face as he gestured me to take the phone.  "Right now."

"Whaaaat?   I'm busy!"

On the other end, my mother's voice trembled, informing me my father had suffered a heart attack.  Dad was resting comfortably in the hospital.  She assured me, there was no reason  to come.  After all, we were expected to catch a flight from Dallas to Tampa for the holidays in just a couple of weeks.

Mother and Dad - newly retired to Florida's gulf coast - were so eager to show off their new home!

I was worried sick; but at the same time a little relieved.   My husband and I were slated to host a dinner party for his managers and their spouses that night at the club.

"Please tell Daddy I love him.  See you soon!"

That evening, I tried my best not to obsess.   Someone introduced me to a White Russian ... something so comforting, I opted for another.   And another.

Not many hours later, I struggled to push through the fog ... groping to silence the ringing phone. 

My mother on the line, her voice curiously flat... telling me Daddy had passed away.

Obviously the next few weeks were an awful blur.  Those who've suddenly lost a loved one get it.
Unfortunately, my decision not to catch a flight that afternoon is something I will always regret. 

I'll never forget the young waitress who -- after handing us our menus and asking about our day, uttered, "Oh, that's so nice!"   (Seriously?  My father-in-law had just said we'd just come from the funeral home.)

Then and there, I vowed to exercise caution when blithely wishing others' a 'merry' Christmas or 'happy' holidays.
Hopefully, it's made me more cognizant of others' scars - new and old.

December 6 was the first, 'worst day of my life.'   After all these years it remains a day of reflection.

Since then, I've experienced a several more 'worst days.'    I suppose it's all part of the price of admission to becoming a full-fledged adult.  

I know my you, my dear friends need no reminding ...
but let's all share - through our words and our actions -  awareness of those facing some pretty awful challenges, and remember to hold them in our prayers.

Thank you!
... and hugs from Phoenix,


Oh no!, Christmas Tree

I couldn't believe my ears!
...  On the other end of the phone line, Mother was saying there would be no Christmas tree at her house when I arrived.   "After all", she rationalized, "Troy and Lois won't be travelling to Florida this year; and it's not my turn to host bridge club."

After we hung up, I was at a loss to identify my dismay.  
Was there something wrong with her health she wasn't ready to share?   
Had her finances suffered?
 ... Had she suffered a crisis of faith?   
Ya, I've tendency to worry about the craziest things!

Truth be told, my perception of Christmas always included a tree.    Not a stately creature whose delicate branches gently curve in unison.
Oh, nooooo!   Not until DH and I found a pre-lit, faux evergreen on sale a few years ago ... most of the trees in my life may well be described as 'Charlie Brown' affairs.    (Not sure if my father felt sorry for the misshapen creatures, or if there was a 'deal' to be had!)

Mother and Troy, ca. 1981

Mother and I were left to transform the ugly ducklings.  
Bless her heart, there must have been scars on her tongue - not saying a cross word when I'd throw clumps of icicles in the direction of an exposed branch.  
Then, there was the year our arms broke out in a rash from some nasty pink stuff billed as 'angel hair.'    
Mostly, I remember the laughter.

Fast forward 40-some years, there was little laughter when my brand-new boss assigned me the task of decorating the lobby tree.   Alone.  Looking back, it's a wonder my association with the Company didn't conclude then and there!
Having no interest - and even less talent - I was sure I'd died and gone 'down there.'    Only when a friendly engineer stopped by with a ladder and a bit o'wit did I find humor in the situation:   In response to my grumbling, "I'd rather be scrubbing toilets", Glenn observed, "Well, that could be arranged."

For lots of reasons, our artificial tree remains in hibernation this year.   We've visiting privileges to others' trees.   And come to think of it, there's a brand new, nicely-adored tree in the lobby, just a few steps from my office!

Warming hugs from Phoenix!

Did I tell you?   No, I don't think I did!
This may sound incredibly childish ... but every day after Christmas when I pass a sad, abandoned 'tree lot', my heart breaks a little for the un-chosen ones.    A blogging friend who shall remain anonymous (it's HER story to tell, after all) recently shared a sweet story over breakfast:
One December 26 her hubby approached a vendor and made him an offer he couldn't refuse for the remaining trees.    He brought them home and planted around the periphery of their property, and today they thrive!   Isn't that neat?!



Friday, December 19, 2014

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas!

... well, not exactly like the White Christmases I enjoyed as a child.
Still, when there's cause to pull extra covers from the closet, and my decades-old sweaters make a cameo appearance  ... I smile!

A month I've been gone?  Yikes!  
It's not for having nothing to say -- as DH would be happy to attest.  
Rather, I don't suppose you good folks would be interested in hearing me re-hash the agony of this year's Iron Bowl ...
nor, my shiny new (albeit, UNwanted) washing machine, clothes dryer and garbage disposal.
 (Yuppers.   No sooner did one go kaput, but the others followed in short order.)  

On a happier note, Tom's recovery is amazing.    He developed some nasty abrasions as a result of a allergy to the tape, but the home care nurse got us back on track.   We were so blessed that our insurance allowed her 9 visits!
 ... reassuring for someone who was ready to wave a white flag after the first 24 hours.    Caregiver, I'm NOT!

There's so, sooooo much for which to be thankful!

... not the least of which is my (sometimes unexpected) treasure trove of memories.

For instance?    During my early morning commute yesterday, I had this great visceral craving for hot cheese queso dip and tortilla chips.   At 6AM. 
What's odd?   I probably haven't indulged in that goodness since leaving West Texas more than 20 years ago!  

Thanks in huge part to 'Etsy', the Master List was complete weeks ago.    We had to cut back this year, but ever since I was a little kid - armed with the Miles Kimball Christmas catalog -  I get this absurd delight finding the 'perfect' gift for everyone on my list.   (Sometimes I think mine's a sickness.)

The only 'to-do' remaining is my annual Starbucks expedition.  Having an addictive personality, I only allow myself a visit to 'Mr. Bucks' once each year for a seasonal delight ... which, of course, must be slowly savored like a fine wine.  LOL!    (Hey, I take my simple pleasures where I can find them!)I

Those of you who know me on Facebook are familiar with this tableau ... but I wanted to share our lil' substitute-for-a-tree impromptu scene.   The wee book was gifted to my mother when she was but 5 years (ca. 1920).  In turn, she grew up and 'stuffed' this sweet tree for her own daughter.   And that little stool with mis-matched paint?   It's a survivor ... of my own tumultuous toddler days. 


In the coming days, I hope to share some vignettes from the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - both past and present.    I hope you'll stay tuned!

Hugs from Phoenix!