Most of us don’t really remember the gifts we receive for Christmas. We only remember how we felt. Our memories are not normally made of things, but experiences.
During Christmas my Grandfather would always visit us in Louisville, Kentucky from Southern California. He lived just south of Los Angeles and looked like Cary Grant, so he was very high on the cool factor to we Kentuckians. His arrival always came with a large degree of fanfare from every single member of my extended family. Grandpa Palmer was kind of magical. He was a successful businessman, dressed fashionably for his age and slicked his hair back in a perfect part. A confident and alluring man who has been married five times. Louisville was like a foreign country that he enjoyed visiting each year, trading the sunny days of Huntington Beach for the snowed-in days of the Louisville. He was always a good sport, and always took genuine interest in each one of us. Honestly, that much cool arriving in town each Christmas was probably the most exciting part of the holiday for all of us.
Then there was the year he told us that he wasn’t visiting for Christmas. It was a bombshell to everyone. Christmas wouldn’t be the same. In fact, it may very well be ruined. I was eleven at the time.
Christmas still happened, of course, but it arrived with a serious limp. It didn’t feel right. Something magical was missing.
Late that Christmas morning, my father headed out the back door. Who knows where he said he was going. After about an hour, as I was carefully applying stickers to Optimus Prime and Megatron figures, the door opened. I expected to see my father’s face. Instead, I saw my grandfather’s face. Assuming I was mistaken, I looked back down at Megatron. I’m pretty sure my Transformer winked at me. I darted my eyes back up in a double-take, and it was true. Grandpa Palmer walked through the door with my father’s grin behind him. No words.
My mother walked in. Shock, screaming and tears ensued. What a incredibly cruel trick my grandfather played that made Christmas all the more sweeter. What a unforgettable gift.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Joe Buckingham