Looking back at Christmases past, there always seems to be one memorable event that stands out. When I was little, it was all about the gift. I will always remember 1959 as the Christmas I got my electric train, and the cardboard rocket ship I could get inside. But as I grew older and wiser, Christmas became about whatever tugged at the heartstrings.
Two years ago, the event that made my Christmas special was the kid who gets my mail showing up on Christmas Eve, all dressed up in a suit and tie, dropping off a huge plate of homemade cookies too beautiful to eat. Last year, it was my brother in Colorado, who can legally buy weed, sending me, also legal in this brave new world, a dozen little one hit bags with names like Island Skunk, and Tarantula. This year, it was the unexpected gifts from my Twitter friends – the ones I made playing Tweet that Tune.
The day their packages arrived could have been stolen from a Hallmark Christmas movie. I was babysitting 4 year old Madison, who arrived at my house so soon after a visit with Santa she was still working on the candy cane. We spent the late afternoon of that Christmas Eve Eve, discussing this encounter (Maddie was quite impressed with his beard) while we decorated our own cookie cutter cookies, from a recipe my maternal grandmother’s mother brought from Ireland. And every once in awhile, when the spirit bubbled over, Maddie would lead us singing Rudolph, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I was thinking life had no better moment than this one. I was wrong.
We were just finishing up the cookies when the knock came at the door. It took Maddie about 10 seconds to get there, and I was only 5 more behind her, afraid she’d open up the door to a stranger, or let Puck escape. But UPS doesn’t dally that time of year, and by the time she swung the door open, with me holding on to Puck’s collar, the man in brown was nowhere to be seen. To Maddie, it must have seemed like the two boxes sitting in front of the door with snowflakes falling on them, had appeared there by magic.
Since I was busy holding Puck, Maddie was the one who dragged the boxes across the threshold, babbling all the time. “Ooh heavy. What could it be?” She hopped around expelling excess energy while I got the larger of the boxes open. The first flap came loose, and I could hear Maddie squeal when we got a glimpse of multiple wrapped packages lying among bags of candy and cookies with red and green plaid bows, and a Christmas tree made out of gold and silver wrapped candies. “It’s from Santa.” Maddie declared with such certainty, I didn’t have the heart to dispel the idea.
Madison might have been certain of the source of the gift, but I myself was more than curious. The first tag I saw was on the candy tree. It was from Nay – and Nay could only be Renee. My friend from Twitter. Then I picked up a wrapped package and read out loud “To Puck from Iris” before Maddie whisked it out of my hands to show Puck. From Iris. Iris could only be my Twitter friend Betsy’s cat. I had a lump in my throat from the very idea that these wonderful people had thought to do this for me.
Maddie took it upon herself to put each of the little packages under the tree one at a time, and then turned her attention to the second box. We got it open, and there was a green gift bag, and something wrapped in tissue with a Christmas card face on it. In a world where everything is store bought, Maddie took this tissue paper gift as a sign her hunch about the origins of these gifts had to be right. This was something hand made. Something the elves and Santa would do. As I read the card enclosed, and realized it was from Bob, also a Twitter friend, and his never seen but often helpful wife Susan, I tried to get my head around this extraordinary event, while Maddie made that tissue package with the Christmas card face, a place of honor under the tree.
I was, and still am, overwhelmed at the idea people I know through Twitter had taken their time and money to remember me. I get misty thinking about it. To me, it was an unexpected gesture of friendship. The gifts themselves, when Puck and I opened them Christmas morning, were wonderful. Betsy had made me dozens of music CDs. Bob had sent me a beautiful Christmas music box, and Nay sent Barack Obama’s children’s book, the one he wrote to his daughters. The mysterious tissue paper package was a poem from Bob and Sue about Tweet that Tune. Lovely gifts all. But not half as lovely as the thought to send them.
As the season fades, and we tuck away this holiday into memory, I know for Maddie, Christmas 2010 will be the Christmas of Santa Claus. For me it will be remembered as the Christmas where friends from afar declared themselves. And for both of us, I know this will always be remembered as the Christmas of the magic gifts.