That One Christmas Gift

The reason for the season is giving, reflecting on our holiday celebrations and looking toward the new year with positive changes, and being with family.  I was raised in a large family of eight kids and two parents.  Christmases were special at our house. It was really the only time of the year when we got gifts. In our family of eight kids, my mother always made sure that we all had something very special. Being from a huge family, my mom would save for months for each of our Christmas gifts.

As we got older, it is a tradition when we are all together to tell the story of that one gift; You know, the one you thought was the best gift. It was the one hidden in glittering Christmas wrapping and snuggled under the tree, but when you opened it, it was a disaster that would embarrass you for the rest of your life. It was the gift no one forgot and would follow you for a lifetime because you thought it was going to be the best gift.

It reminds me of that 1940s movie “A Christmas Story,” based on a young boy named Ralphie who attempts to convince his parents, his teacher and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift. I know everyone had that one gift they just knew they were getting; I know I did.

I remember mine; it was these a pair of leather boots that every girl had in 8th grade. They were the one pair of boots that all the really popular girls wore. I told my mom these boots were the only gift I wanted. The great thing about the 8th grade in 1978 was most of my siblings were now grown and moved on, so there was a good chance I was getting those boots.  I noticed a box wrapped under the tree, it was the right size, as I picked it up it was the right weight also. Yep she did it! I remember thinking that I was so proud of my mom’s purchase.

My brother Jim and I were going to spend Christmas with my older sister Ruby and her kids in Nevada, so we packed up all our gifts to open with my sister’s family on Christmas morning.  That Christmas morning was great watching my nephew and niece open all their gifts. Nothing is better that seeing little ones tear open their gifts. Then it was our turn, I was sitting on the floor and everyone was busy opening their gifts. I tore into the one box I wanted to open first. That is when I thought I was going to throw up looking at it. As I looked down at the box I thought, “What in the heck was this?” With the box half open, I quickly shoved it under the sofa. I thought, “Oh heck, no one was going to see this thing.”  Then Ruby said, “Donnie (my family nickname) what did you get?” I said oh nothing yet, what did you get?  Trying to get her off the subject, but she had already seen me push something under the sofa.  “What is in that box?” she said. Then everyone in the living room was looking at me.

“Okay, you want to see it.” I blurted out. “I think Mom has lost her mind and I am not sure what the heck she thinks. Does she think I want to be a doctor?’ I said. Then I pulled out the box of the invisible woman model kit. Seriously, I hated biology in school. My sister and brother just laughed and said it was about time I got the curse. I blurted out, “What curse?”  Ruby explained that each of them growing up got that one Christmas gift, which was so utterly humiliating, and this year mine was the invisible woman. But they explained to me never to tell my mother I didn’t like it, because she always bought gifts with much thought and it might hurt her feelings. I remember thinking, “Yeah, what kind of thought went into the invisible woman? An anatomy kit that required assembly using cement (not included), where the outer plastic breastplate comes off and complete skin with major veins and arteries. Yep all the vital organs can be removed and replaced to learn the human body. Just what I wanted. Not!

I didn’t feel so bad after my brother, a bull rider, told me his story of our mother buying him his first cowboy hat for Christmas. It was not a Stetson, it happened to be made of felt and something Howdy Doody would wear. 

About Madonna Long: Madonna works as a disability advocate to educate policymakers and congressional leaders on disability issues. She is a mother to four children and lives life on her terms, despite a spinal cord injury. Click here to learn more about Madonna.