It was the Acree Christmas at my grandmother’s house. Back in those days, the adults drew names of the children to buy an exchange gift. We gathered around the tree in the back room and all the kids tried hard to stretch and get a look at the gifts, each trying to find our own present. Dinner was over and the moment had finally arrived. My brother got his gift first, ripped off the wrapping paper and found a super cool G.I. Joe doll. This is back when G.I. Joe was tall, proud, and bearded. One of the best toys any boy could ask for. Then my gift was handed to me, where I sat at my mother’s feet. It was soft, bendable and flat. I wondered what cool toy could be concealed beneath the beautiful wrapping paper. I tore off the paper and stared at the gift in my lap. Tears began to form and I turned to my mother,
She asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I got underwear,” I wailed. My mother shushed me.
Underwear. I got underwear. Not a G.I. Joe doll. Not a board game like Monopoly. Not even candy or a coloring book. Underwear.
My mother, smiling said, “At least you can use it.”
“No I can’t, they’re too small!”
My mother tried hard to hide her smile, but failed. What was even worse? She made me go thank the family member who gave me the gift, saying it’s the thought that counts. Thought? When you’re seven years old, it’s the gift that counts, not the thought.
To this day, when I’m handed a gift and it’s soft and bendable, I wonder: underwear? It did happen again. But that’s another story.