The biggest gift under the Christmas tree

The Holidays are a wonderful opportunity for you to enjoy time with family and friends, make new memories and think back on years gone by.

It’s an even better time to think back on my memories of years gone by, so I thought I would present one to you here.

Christmas was a very busy and meaningful time for my parents, my three siblings and me when I was growing up in northwest Ohio in the 1970s. My father was a Lutheran minister, and at that time he was serving two rural churches simultaneously. I have a hard time carrying on two email conversations at my work, but he somehow managed two congregations very smoothly.

Each December, we spent a great deal of time practicing for the Sunday school programs, taking part in church holiday events, attending holiday events that congregation members hosted, playing roles in various school productions and taking part in other events.

We also spent much of December looking through the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs searching carefully for items we might like as presents. The catalogs were the 1970s version of Amazon, only the options were limited, the orders took a lot longer to arrive and you had to wade through page after page of boring clothing items before you found anything interesting.

And then as Christmas approached, we spent even more time carefully examining all of the presents under the Christmas tree, trying to determine who had the largest and best presents. One year in particular I had the biggest wrapped gift by far and I made sure to let my siblings know about it.

“I can’t see your presents very well behind my giant present,” was one Christmas-y remark of mine.

“I wonder how Mom found enough wrapping paper for my giant gift,” I might also say. “She had more than enough for the socks or underwear that it looks like you are getting.”

“Mom and Dad sure must love me with that giant gift I have under the tree. What did you do to make them so upset with you?”

When the Christmas week finally arrived, first we had to go to more Christmas program practices and then we performed our children’s programs at our churches on Dec. 23 and then on Christmas Eve. At each church, we were given presents from our teachers and then these huge paper sacks filled with chocolate candies and nuts. I have not thought about those bags for years, but it was crazy how much chocolate they gave us. It made going to all of those practices for a month worthwhile, as I was stocked up on candy for much of the winter.

After the Christmas Eve children’s program, we raced home and got to our spots around the tree so that we could finally open the presents. We were a Christmas Eve presents opening family, mainly because my father had to preside over a church service on Christmas morning.

He also presided over a late night Christmas Eve service, though, so we had to open our presents in the window of time we had between the children’s program and the late service. That was no problem, of course, because we tore through the presents and wrapping paper faster than I could tear through all of the clothing pages in those catalogs.

On this particular Christmas Eve, we excitedly opened present after present, all while my giant gift waited at the back of the three. The early presents I received were all fine, as they included games, socks, a football and a few other items, but they all paled in comparison to whatever the magnificent item was at the back of the tree.

I munched on my church candy while nervously opening presents, laughing at my siblings for their lame gifts and trying to be patient while opening presents from relatives near and far.

Finally, we got to my giant present and I opened it happily as everyone watched. What could it be? Some sort of motorcycle? Perhaps a robot? Maybe even a rocket?

The possibilities were endless and my mind was racing as I peeled back the wrapping paper and opened the box. Finally, I proudly removed the present from the huge box that carefully protected it and discovered that it was a giant trash can.

My heart sank.

A trash can.

My brothers laughed with joy.

A trash can.

It was a Denver Broncos trashcan, which I actually did like since I was born in Denver and was a big Broncos fan while growing up. It wasn’t a rocket, robot or any sort of present that I had hoped for, but it turned out to be a terrific trash can.

That trash can found an honored place in my room, and as the years went by and Christmas presents came and went, it remained in its proud home. And later, it went to college with me and moved out with me when I became an adult. It was perfect for playing indoor basketball, it was just the right size for throwing up into when sick and it did a nice job of collecting trash.

And even though I don’t have it anymore today, it stays with me in my mind when I am thinking about the joy of Christmas candy, the fun of Christmas Eve services and the unexpected importance that certain gifts and holidays can play in your lives.

No matter where you are this Christmas and whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I hope that you are enjoying your day and that you are making new memories with family members and friends, even if those memories are focused around trash cans.

11 thoughts on “The biggest gift under the Christmas tree

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