When I was a kid, somewhere between 10-15 I guess, I don’t have a vivid memory of what grade I was in I made this ceramic thing in school. The teacher mentioned it might be a good gift for someone in your life. When I started the design, I must have been made at my Mom and Dad because I decided to make it into a Montreal Canadians logo and give it to my Dad as a gift. I’m from a small suburb in Massachusetts, we are raised to hate New York teams in most sports, but if you are hockey family, like we were, you are born hating the Montreal Canadians. It’s in your blood the second you see those hideous Blue and Red colors. Success for my Boston Bruins is first, but not so much a distant second place is watching the Canadians lose every game I can. My Dad is a wonderful man, truly a man whose heart gets bigger and bigger every day. He doesn’t advertise when he does something incredible, like drop off cookies and a $50 bill to his granddaughter’s school fundraiser, or the million other examples I have learned to know or saw with my own eyes. But, even him, if I dated a Canadians fan, I think he would probably try to poison her food or drink. If you are a Bruins fan you know those words to be true.
So, I must have been pretty angry with them when I made that gift for them. When I started the project, I was mad, but by the end when I was already committed to the game Canadians logo,I was super embarrassed to give it to him. He thanked me for that gift, and it sat on his bureau in his room for something like 25 years. I would run up there to steal socks or grab something in their bedroom and I would see that embarrassing Canadians ceramic thing. It might have even been an ash tray and neither of them have smoked since maybe I was like 2 years old. But it sat up there along with a wooden box my little brother had made for them some other year.
I didn’t know what those things meant to them, even though I had seen they kept them forever I didn’t know why. Didn’t get the impact of that till this Christmas. Didn’t see it until I opened a gift from my freshman daughter. I had talked to her for a couple weeks about her latest class. She told me about how hard it is to cut metal and how she could get a green paint off her hands for a couple days. I tried to help her, but it seemed like nothing was working. We had a few good laughs about those hands. And then, Christmas morning I opened one of my gifts and it was metal red rose with a metal green stem. All welded together and beautiful. All done by my little girl. She said something like how “this was done wrong, or this part looks dumb” but she knew from my face it was perfect.
This Christmas was a really really special one for my family, mainly because the kids and I got to meet my nephew for the first time in his five long months of life. I’ll have many more words for my buddy, for he is the newest member of the tribe so he will get his own full story but having him around just really took a strange year and reminded us about what this life is really about. My kids were spoiled by our families, and we got to have all our eves and Christmas day festivities. I know with all going on right now that is a miracle in itself. It was a really good Christmas break.
Then, a couple days after Christmas by oldest daughter said that a final little gift she bought for the four of us had arrived and she wanted to give it to us together. It was a little keychain with a barcode on it. When you take a picture of the bar code it starts playing Stay by Lisa Loeb on Spotify. That’s our family song, it makes no sense to have such a connection to such a weird song, but that’s our song, it will forever and ever be. There is only second place, first place is etched in stone. The oldest daughter mentioned how it was “a dumb little thing” but she knew from her Dad’s smile it was perfect.
As I look over the metal rose, I can’t help but remember her talking about dice she was working on. I know she mentioned how they just didn’t come out how she wanted them to. I think about her probably talking to my wife and my wife telling her to give the rose to me. The true damn gift of Christmas is in that conversation. My daughter telling my wife it is rose, what does Dad want with a rose and my wife telling her I will love it. The true gift of Christmas is while I freak out at how thoughtful that gift is the look between my daughter and my wife that says “see, I told you so” and the little smile they share. That’s Christmas all right there, in that small little moment. I think back to that stupid Montreal Canadians ceramic and I know exactly why that sat on my Dad’s bureau forever. God, I hate the Canadians. I’m so sorry Dad. But that’s the beauty in being a Dad, right? Turning a rusty red metal rose or a rival team’s logo into something you will love forever. Forever and always the luckiest guy in any room.
“It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, it’s who’s around it” -Charlie Brown