Dear Holiday Spirit,
This is my favorite holiday season memory of my father:
He’s leaning way back in his big leather chair. His huge feet are in black socks on the ottoman. His drink—–Eggnog from the drive-thru farm store—– is next to him on a side table he’s procured in the Philippines or India.
He has a stack of catalogs on the floor next to him. They go up as high as the table. Almost all of them have multiple pages folded down, with pen marks all over the place. He’s been studying the catalogs for weeks. Narrowing down what he wants to order and for whom. It’s a research project of love. He delights in these efforts, although he takes the job very seriously. There is an air of joy and intensity surrounding him. Santa Claus Surgeon. Picking out gifts with an X-acto knife.
Then he begins the laborious task of ordering his selections. He uses a book on his lap for a hard surface, and goes about filling in the forms and his credit card number.
I don’t know how the folks at L.L. Bean, the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, Virgina Honeybaked Hams, Neiman Marcus, FAO Schwartz, among others, could possibly read his handwriting. Like any good doctor, it’s nearly illegible.
Sometimes, he tires and pauses to get a long chord for the phone so he can sit in his chair to call in the remaining orders. Often there is a football game on television or Bach on the reel-to-reel. I’m supposed to be in my room reading but I am spying on him. I love watching my father’s mind at work. I can see what he’s thinking–that which is rarely expressed: how much he adores friends, family and life.
In 1976, he ordered a dozen ornaments with beautiful, delicate, elaborate scenes of winter life from the World Wildlife Foundation. When they arrived, he took great care in putting them on our tree after showing me each animal and design. Although he didn’t say it, I knew he bought them to remind us how precious the world is.
There’s only one of those ornaments left. It’s on my tree right now, reminding me that these memories of my father were the greatest gift of all.