The Big Cheese

As I prepare for Christmas this year, I’ve realized that my children are now just old enough to begin creating Christmas memories that they’ll actually remember.  I think my earliest Christmas memory was of a cardboard Christmas tree, more like a Christmas cone with blue sparkles on it and holes punched in it.  When you plugged in the light underneath, the heat made it spin around.  It was mesmerizing and I remember thinking, “something very different is going on here. People are lighting up cardboard cones and dragging big trees into the house.” But  I caught on very fast once they started putting presents under that tree!  And over the years I found all sorts of things under those trees, a tricycle, a doll, a lot of socks.  But my favorite gift came when I was about sixteen.  I don’t know about you, but it was my mother who picked out and wrapped the presents for me and my sisters.  The card always said with love from Mommy and Daddy but my father was usually just as surprised as I was on Christmas morning to see what he had given me.

It got to be sort of a joke after awhile.  And when I became a teen-ager, I didn’t even expect that my mother, let alone my father, would have any clue what I wanted or was interested in.  Once, when I was fourteen, I had to go with my dad to a Christmas party where I didn’t know anybody and the closest person to my age was really old, like fifty.  After I had endured about half an hour of being told how much I’d grown, I wandered over to the buffet and pretended to be fascinated by the hors d’oeuvres.   In fact, I actually discovered some little pieces of cheese that tasted really, really good and I asked the hostess what it was.  And she said it was an imported cheese from Holland called Edam.  Well, I really liked that cheese.  Until then, I’d had no idea there was any other kind of cheese in the world besides cottage, cheddar, and Velveeta.  But I knew my chances of having any more very soon were pretty small, because imported cheeses were definitely not in our family’s budget.  And I figured with some typical teen-age resentment that this was just another example that I was doomed to a life of predictability and processed foods and parents who, of course, could never possibly understand  my teenage angst or the great, imported thoughts I was thinking on a daily basis. 

Christmas morning came, and I opened the sweater and the Avon skincare set and the subscription to the kid’s magazine that I had outgrown two years earlier.  And then I saw one more box under the tree.  And the tag read “To my not-so-little girl.  Merry Christmas.  Love, Daddy.”  It wasn’t very big and…it was…cold.  I opened it up.  It was a little wheel of Edam cheese.  I’ve  received a lot of Christmas presents since then.  And I’m pretty sure they all lasted longer than that cheese did.  But the memory of my dad’s wink and smile when I opened that package will last forever.  And I’ll never forget the lesson I learned that teen-age Christmas – a lesson about parents, about friends, and even about God.  You’re only as distant from someone you love as you decide to be. 

See you soon.