"Tis more blessed …"
A combination of relief and satisfaction accompanied me out the door of the store. With Christmas just a couple of days away I had finished my shopping. My meager budget had been matched to the critical list: Grandad and Nano (Grandma), Mom and Dad, and my brothers. All that was left was to wrap my purchases, slide them under the tree, and await the appreciation as family members saw how I had studiously applied my 8-year-old mind to selecting a fitting gift for each.
Dad’s Buick was less than a block away, around the corner of the solitary bank in this small town. As I approached that corner the brown paper sack containing my last purchase began to slide atop the other packages I carried. Despite my best efforts to adjust my load, I watched in horror as the paper sack disappeared over the edge. Almost instantly I heard the terrible sound of shattering, as gift met sidewalk. I repositioned my armload of Christmas cheer, picked up the sack, and with desperate hope shook it gently. My throat knotted as I was greeted by the unmistakable noise of many fragments collecting in the bottom of the sack.
With all the bravery I could muster I trudged to the car and took my seat in the back. Home was a long, silent journey away. During it I calculated and recalculated my plight and my options. My small budget was all but exhausted. Moreover, it was not likely I would get back to town before Christmas. In what I now recognize as very adult behavior, I analyzed my dilemma from every possible angle, and each angle several times over. I arrived home pretty well drained of Christmas cheer and anticipation.
Though I had not lived that many years I had learned that when situations and problems of a sensitive nature besought me I found the most help with Mom. She had a way of fixing things, or if she couldn’t fix them she could explain them in a way that made them seem not so bad. Once again I summoned up my courage and approached Mom with what seemed a reasoned and semi-rehearsed review of my plight. I promptly dissolved into tears.
After she had soothed and calmed me, Mom began to review the problem. Yes, I had spent my money. But, she pointed out, I had presents for all those on my list. “Yes,” I choked, “but Nano’s gift is broken, and I didn’t see another in the store, even if there was time to go back and replace it. “Let me see what you got for Nano,” she continued.
Mom began to fish from the sack the fragments of a small bell. It was made with a rooster on top for a handle. When I saw it I imagined it was the kind of bell a great cook like my Nano might gently ring to call the family to one of her luscious meals. In my young mind I had reasoned that such a gift was not only useful, but was pretty, with its bright colors. My heart dropped as I watched Mom pull piece-after-piece from the sack. Even Mom couldn’t fix this; it was hopeless. I felt a mist rising into my eyes, apparently pushed there by the lump in my throat.
Patiently, Mom began to fit the fragments together as you would a puzzle. But I saw there were too many for her to hold together in her hands. This was absolutely beyond repair. Gently Mom placed the pieces on the counter in a sort of order; then she went to that cupboard drawer that every successful household must have, the fix-it drawer. Since Mom always seemed to know precisely where things were (a total mystery to an 8-year-old male), out she came with the glue bottle.
With the hands of a Mother she began to reassemble the shattered bell and rooster, applying glue carefully before pressing pieces together. This was 1950 and we had not been introduced to fast-drying “super glue;” it was a long process. I watched, I handed her pieces of gift, and slowly Nano’s gift took on a semblance of its former self.
The bell was not exactly round anymore, and the rooster was missing a small fragment from his comb; the clear tone of the bell, which I had heard only once before in the store, now seemed considerably less musical.
While I was convinced Mom had done her best to repair my gift and my heart, I was disappointed. I could not tell her that. I never would. But Moms know.
As she looked at the crooked little rooster atop the imperfect bell she said to me, “I really like this, I think it’s pretty.” She continued, “I would like to have a gift like this.” As her message began to slowly sink into my muddled mind a thought came to me. If Mom liked this bell, perhaps I could give her present to Nano. I soon convinced myself that what Mom would like Nano would like, and vice-versa.
Christmas began to regain some of its original glow. Yes, I had fitting gifts for all the important people in my life and they were gifts I had personally picked and purchased. Yes, indeed, the season of cheer was ready to be celebrated in our house.
That mended, crooked bell and rooster sat upon a shelf in my folk’s house for many years. Brown, aging glue marked the places Mom had mended my gift and in the process, my young aching heart. I realize now that the little bell with the flat tone was a rare gift given to me in the truest Spirit of Christmas giving.
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