More Gifts

January 23, 2012





“…Oh, and I loved the red necklace you wore yesterday….such a nice bright pop of color.”  I had to smile as I read her words in the email earlier this morning.  I wrote back and told her there was a story about that “necklace,” then laughed at myself again as I remembered it….

I had spent a glorious 3 1/2 hours in Philadelphia at our daughter’s this past Saturday, sorting out double and quadruple Lego units for our 3 1/2 year old Lego-Engineer-Extraordinaire-grandson, while soaking in his excitement over each piece.  Often seated side by side, sometimes with his little leg draped over my own, I was savoring each small speck of our circumstances.  I was still full, in after-glow, on Saturday night when I decided to unwind by catching up on the day’s facebook posts.  As soon as I logged in, there was a new picture of a young fb friend and her companion decked out in their newly-created pinterest scarves.  My eyes widened, my ears buzzed, my memory quickened:  where had I heard that word “pinterest” before??  After googling it, I got it, and with a little Lego-lovin’ lust in the creative process, I thought, “I can do that!”  (I’m always thinking I can do something at the last minute, so I bang away at it till the idea takes shape and I have it in my hands.)  So all agog and all aglow, I searched for the perfect t-shirt needed to satisfy my own pinterest interest.  …But there were no perfect t-shirts.  I’d hunted in all of my t-shirt squirreling-away places, but I came up with Snap.  Zip.  OK.  Never mind.  It was late anyway.   I went to bed.  Sunday morning arrived.  But I was still thinking of the pinterest scarves, wishing I had one.  Then:  lightbulb!  I did!  Well, sort of.  It was an ursatz one but it might do.  It actually was an old hairband that I used to wear when my hair was longer.  (Tee hee, I can’t believe I’m even thinking of draping my beginning-to-wrinkle 58 year old neck with a recycled hairband–is this what happens to us as we age??)  But oh, what the heck;  I draped my neck and off I went.  Of course, the thing was a bit itchy (it was meant for hair, after all), and I was a teence preoccupied with myself–made it harder to completely focus on the words in the songs during the service–but it didn’t seem like the thing to do to rip it up over my head in the middle of church so after a decision to quell my pinterest spell, I calmed down, grinned at myself and almost forgot about it.

And then I got the email this morning.  You just never know…A small thing.  Silly, even.  But then a few small words come, and you find yourself with a gift in your hands….

Picture two homeless guys:  one, an old, tired major league wannabe/current custodian and the other, a young boy.  (From Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli, 1990, pp 113 – 114):

As in all happy Christmas homes, the gifts were under the tree.  Maniac gave Grayson a pair of gloves and a woolen cap and a book.  The book did not appear to be as sturdy as the others lying around.  The cover was blue construction paper, and the spine, instead of being bound, was stapled.  The text was hand lettered, and the pictures were stick figures.  The title was The Man Who Struck Out Willie Mays.  The author’s name, which Grayson read aloud with some difficulty, was Jeffrey L. Magee.

     Maniac, in his turn, opened packages to find a pair of gloves, a box of butterscotch Krimpets, and a spanking, snow-white, never-ever-used baseball.

     He was overjoyed.  He rushed to the old man and hugged him.  The old man put up with that for a second, then pulled away.  “Hold on,” he said.  He went to one of the baseball equipment bags and reached in, tunneled down to the bottom, and came up with another package, this one wrapped crudely in newspaper.  “Hiding this’n,” he said.  “Didn’t know if you’re the kinda kid sneaks looks.”

     Maniac tore it open — and gasped helplessly when he saw what it was.  To anyone else, it was a ratty old scrap of leather, barely recognizable as a baseball glove, fit for the garbage can.  But Maniac knew at once this was Grayson’s, the one he had played with all those years in the Minors.  It was limp, flat, the pocket long since gone.  Slowly, timidly, as though entering a shrine, the boy’s fingers crept into it, flexed, curled the cracked leather, brought it back to shape, to life.  He laid the new ball in the palm, pressed glove and ball together, and the glove remembered and gave way and made a pocket for the ball.

     The boy could not take his eyes off the glove.  The old man could not take his eyes off the boy.  The record player finished the “Christmas Polka” and clicked off, and for a long time there was silence.

     Five days later the old man was dead.

Gifts.  You just never know.



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