Monday, December 24, 2012

60 Second Stories By Cal - My Best Christmas

My mother bought us a scanner this year that is specifically designed to scan slides - something our family choose over photographs for most of our lives. Blame my dad and his love for dying technologies like 8 track players, reel to reel tape machines, slide projectors and Beta VCRs.

I spend some time tonight setting up the hardware but suddenly I had to stop. I just couldn't put a single slide into the scanner because seeing anything about Christmas when my father was alive would just depress me more I already am.

My father loved Christmas. He always did everything up right. When we lived in Europe he would take his points and fly back to Canada just to shop toys for us in mid November. Only the newest and most popular toys were good enough for his kids.

I knew those slides will show all the great Mego action figures, G.I. Joes, Big Jims, Playmobil and other great toys that I had. Maybe in a week I will try to get down to them again after my ennui passes.

My favorite Christmas story happened when I was 7. We arrived in Europe on December 24th and NONE of our boxes from North American had arrived yet. We had nothing in the house and there was no stores open that late in the season. So without hope that he would have ANYTHING for his children, My Father went out into the dark night anyways.

Walking the streets of Lahr he did a lot of looking into the windows of the closed shops and said he almost threw a brick through the window of the homemade toy store but before he could convince himself that it was a good idea he was asked inside my a man who ran a chocolate shop. He walked out of the store with some beautiful German chocolate bars with these freaky little troll dolls tied to them. It wasn't much but it was at least something he could give us.

Then before coming home he stopped off at his work for some reason and on his desk was a huge box addressed to him. The box contained the 1972 set of World Book Encyclopedias that he had ordered six months before. They also came with the set of Childcraft Books - which had stories and information about things specifically of interest to little kids.

The 1973 edition consisted of the following:
1. Poems and Rhymes
2. Stories and Fables
3. Children Everywhere
4. World and Space
5. About Animals
6. How Things Work
7. How We Get Things
8. What People Do
9. Holidays and Customs
10. Places to Know
11. Make and Do
12. Look and Learn
13. Look Again
14. About Me
15. Guide for Parents
So those were all the presents that we got that year, but to be honest - it was the greatest Christmas we ever spent as a family. While eating chocolate (that was so great that you could only eat a few pieces at a time), my Dad showed us all about dog and cat breeds, Canadian history, overheads of how the human body worked, famous Canadians, weapons and armor and traditional costumes.

For a kid that loved toys, I hardly noticed that we had none (until February when our boxes finally arrived in Germany) because having my Dad explain to me why Vimmy Ridge was the most important battle for Canada in WWI and how Banting and Best discovered insulin started me on a real life long long of learning and information. He made the stories so interesting that I just had to know more.

For the next two weeks I did nothing but pour through those beautiful volumes.

Over the years I must have read those encyclopedias from beginning to end over a dozen times. Before GOOGLE, having a great set of encyclopedias was the best resource a junior high student could have. Any information you needed to write about a certain country or the assassination of a President like Kennedy was at your fingertips.

I should honor my Dad by making Christmas as special as he did but I have no friends or family or kids to make it worthwhile. My mother and I volunteer alot to fill shoeboxes or hand out coats and food to the homeless and hungry. We send some goats and a school package to a poor village in Africa too. It's nice to be involved in the giving but I still feel hollow inside.

And that is why, these days, I hate Christmas most of all. I would rather not know how good a time it could be than to have to sit today and only have my memories to keep my cold bitter and frozen heart from breaking in half.

That being said - don't be like me. Make this time of year as memorable for your kids as you can. One day they might feel like I do and I promise that the ONLY thing that will get them through the next couple of days will be their good memories of the season. You never really can appreciate the greatness of that family time until it is gone.

Merry Christmas from Kal and Lord Admiral Fluffy.


david_b said...

A most Merry Christmas to you, sir. Thank you for a most stirring story.

May God's Grace stay over you and protect you always.

Hobgoblin238 said...

How did your father pass away?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Christmas is never so magical as when we were kids. In a way, Christmas only truly exists in our memories.

Wishing you Xmas peace and joy, Cal. And of course, to your Mom and the Admiral too.

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas and God Bless You my friend.

Simon B said...

Cal, that's a beautiful story about your dad. It shows that, as ever, Christmas isn't about material things but spending time with your loved ones.

It's interesting to hear about your scanner designed for slide photos. My dad too left a legacy of hundreds of slides, which are all mixed up in boxes now, in need of sorting out. It's one of those things I always meant to get round to doing when my mum was alive, because she could identify long lost people and places... but it never happened :-(

Anyway, I'm sending all best wishes to you and your mother this Christmas, and I hope you have as good a time as possible. Take care my friend,
Simon ( crebus660 )

Kelly Sedinger said...

Merry Christmas to you as well, Cal!

WE had the exact same edition of the World Book and the Childcraft. My favorite volume, by far, was "Places to Know" -- so much so that when I saw a set of those books for sale at a recent library used book sale, I bought that one. Not the entire set, just "Places to Know". It really transported me back to times as a kid when I'd thumb through that book in front of the fireplace. said...

I love you, Kal. I can relate. After my mom died, we stopped all family gatherings and celebrations. I always experience extra pangs of pain this time of year; and it hurts to hear about everyone's wonderful family time. You are right, people don't know how lucky they are.

But you are honoring your dad's memory with your generous spirit. I'm about to go feed the homeless. What more could we do to feel uplifted ourselves?

Hugs and kisses,

Nick Ward said...

Merry Christmas you magnificent bastard! That's a truly lovely story. I got a bit teary of eye reading it and I have a very similar tale which happened on my birthday. Dad came home late from work and it was my birthday on a friday. Late night shopping and Dad took me out to all the best shops - Models, Crafts and Hobbies, and the PSIS. It was incredible he just said pick whatever you like I got a "visible man" kit and plastic 303 rifle. It was the best birthday ever. A couple of years ago I said to Mum and Dad that was the best birthday ever - Mum says " oh yes that was the year we forgot it was your birthday so Dad had to take you on a late-night shopping spree to make up for it" They forgot my birthday? Oh well I still got the best birthday ever out of it. Merry Christmas my friend.

Wings1295 said...

Great story and memories, Cal. I have said before, when I die, I hope my kids continue to celebrate the joy, family and happiness of the holidays as much or more as we do now. That is what would make me happy and serve my memory well. Hope you can get to that point some Christmastime, too. Happy Holidays to you & your momma!