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Topic: Rejoicing (11/22/04)
TITLE: The Twice-given Gift
By Trish Thompson
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I thought and thought, and looked at the pile of Matchbook cars I had already purchased. Even when wrapped individually, they were so pitifully small. Then, as I gazed at the collection I had at hand, it suddenly occurred to me that some were vehicles suited for the country, and the others would be more comfortable in the city. An idea was born! I would take a sheet of plywood, and I would construct a ‘city’ and a ‘country’ sized just right for these small cars to run.
My neighbors got right into the spirit with me, cutting the plywood and lending me their house. I spent hours each night, with chicken wire and papier-mâché, making hills and valleys in my wooden country, and roads and buildings in my wooden city. As Christmas drew closer, I worked feverishly to be done, waiting impatiently for the paper to dry, and then painted them both to be as realistic as I could, not sure that they’d look as they should. I feared not, but with a sigh, I knew I had done all that I could do, so I took and wrapped the two gifts, putting them under the tree with care, one on each side, along with the small collection of tiny cars, each wrapped by itself and put there.
Christmas morning dawned and the boys tore down the stairs to see what was under the tree. They were properly mystified by the large, lumpy gifts, they wanted to grab and open them first. “Not so fast,” I said, “we’ll take our time, and open the gifts one by one.” That way we could see what we’d each received from the small colorful bounty under the tree. This was one way I could create the illusion for a while, that there were more gifts to open than were there.
Each gift was unwrapped, with appropriate “oohs” and “ahhs,” and finally it was down to the last two; I wanted so much to hear the ultimate reaction, to hear the boys say ‘oh, how cool!’ And they did, to my surprise, they really seemed to like them, and promptly began to play with the cars, weaving stories as they played, their imagination filling in for the things that weren’t really there. They played with that city and country for years, providing countless hours of fun for both the boys, and all their friends, until the day came when they finally wore out, and the boys grew up and moved on.
Years later, when they were grown, on another Christmas Day, we all were talking about Christmases past, and I told them how that one Christmas long ago was the worst one I had ever had. I had so wanted to buy them the bright shiny toys like all their friends had received, but all I could give them was that city and country, the ultimate ‘hand-made’ gift that ever was. They both looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, and their words echoed one another’s; they both said, “But Mom, that was the BEST Christmas ever, those were the coolest gifts we ever got!” I realized then that they had not seen those gifts the same way as I; they saw the love that went into each one, the time and the care that each detail had taken, and to them these were true gifts from the heart so right and so perfectly done.
My eyes filled with tears as I heard what they said, and my heart was brimming full too. The meaning of Christmas was love, after all, and now I’d been shown that was true. Their words that day healed my sad, painful memory, and replaced it with one of joy, for the gift I’d given that long-ago day, was returned to me full of rejoicing. And now when I think of the Christmas story, how Jesus came to earth from heaven above, I think of the city and country from that Christmas long ago, and the lesson my boys taught me about love.