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You Call That a Gift?!

The only reason my dad had done the shopping that year was that my mom wasn't well. He was so proud of what he'd selected at the Montgomery Ward store a block from home.

I, on the other hand, was humiliated. I hustled the horrific gift back under the tree where, I hoped, it would quickly be forgotten. But two hours later, as we were heading out to spend the day with family friends I hadn't seen in five or six years, my father appeared in the doorway, shiny pantsuit in hand. "Will you wear this today?" he asked sweetly.

So I did. It was the longest Christmas day of my life, but I did it.

-- Marylou Tousignant

The Wrong Superhero

Bicentennial Christmas. What a boy wants: the Bionic Beauty Salon play set. What a boy gets: the Six Million Dollar Man Mission Control Center. Ugh. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. Nice try. Still gay.

-- Jonathan Padget

Yearning, Fondly

The gift-getting extravaganza in our household occurred on Christmas Eve each year; by and large, we all got what we'd asked for. But during my early and mid-teens, a vague but pervasive sense of disappointment accompanied those overstuffed stockings. I wanted a girlfriend, not for but at Christmas.

In retrospect, the basis of that yearning is easy to spot: My older siblings trotted out their significant others at these occasions. I watched as each couple sat side by side. A hand might be placed discreetly on the other's knee, their heads slightly tilted toward each other; words would be whispered.

I doubt I could have articulated it then, but what hadn't come my way that year was someone with whom to share the holiday, and what seemed like the deepest parts of myself. I longed to go overboard in buying gifts for that still-faceless and -nameless someone special. (New Judy Collins or Joni Mitchell album, skirt with matching top, perfume, earrings.) I wanted to pick out just the right gushy/silly card and ponder what message to write inside (careful!) and what complimentary closing to use. ("Fondly" would be the safe route, but maybe Christmas was the time to go for broke!) Above all, I yearned for those private moments, after the family gathering had dissolved, when these gifts and cards would be exchanged or the special one that had been held back would be pulled from the glove compartment and bestowed. Actually, I did get you one other thing . ..

A few more Christmases would pass before these wishes came true. With the pleasures came pitfalls, of course. But nearly 40 years later (the last 25 of them married years), it's hard to dismiss those (soft) blue Christmases as just the stuff of immaturity. As every child learns, and adults often must relearn, you get more when you share.

-- Tom Kavanagh


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