ODD #9: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

by teresalaynebennett

photo of three much-loved children's books and some stale Christmas peppermints

Keep reading: I promise you’ll get it.

I don’t know or care who first used this now over-used phrase. Whatever that person (or ad campaign?) was originally referring to, I’ll bet it wasn’t really “the gift that keeps on giving.” I know for a fact that for some of us (who might be regarded as odd, odder, or oddest of all), a book is.

After The Best-Ever Christmas, school absorbed all my attention. But when the last school bell had rung on May 30th, the bus ride home turned into a truly depressing affair, as I resigned myself to what would undoubtedly be a long, boring, incredibly dull summer.

  • No reading classes exploring imaginary children’s exploits.
  • No sumptuous aromas of waxy crayons and pristine construction paper.
  • No excitement as the battered box of blunt-end scissors was passed around.
  • No sloppy pots of exotic-smelling paper paste.
  • No wondrous geography homework to delve into and foreign lands and exotic people to study.

I’d even miss the math flash-cards. This, in spite of the fact that I was – and still am – always a little confused about Math. Is it the one next to Venus or the one next to Pluto? I always ask myself. Small matter. With no academic exercises in the offing, even Math took on a certain, far-off desirability.

Grim. It’s going to be grim, I thought as I stepped off the school bus that last day of school and trudged up the walk to the Victorian gingerbread screen door. My thin little shoulders slumped as my bulging, red-and-yellow plaid schoolbag banged against my knobbly knees. An interminable summer of no learning and boredom-beyond-belief stretched before me.

Maybe not.

You’ll remember that in all my desk-moving frenzy after The Best-Ever Christmas, there had been no time for reading. First things first, you know. Indeed, all reading since then had been textbook reading. Just as I had resigned myself to a depressingly boring summer, I found the three-volume set from The Best-Ever Christmas that I’d squirreled away for just such a time as this. What glorious good luck!

There was more. With those books was a whole cache of very old peppermints, culled from my Christmas stocking. My father didn’t believe candy should set around in candy dishes all year long: special holidays were the only times candy made its appearance at our house. My six-month-old cache of stale candy would have to be my little secret. Heh, heh, heh. Oh, glorious, glorious, unbelievably good luck! I was set for the summer: something for my brain and something for my sweet tooth.

Of course, as every book-lover knows, a good book never lasts as long as you’d like. You’ve heard older generations’ stories about how they had to slave away at endless chores when they were children? Not in my house. Oh, sure, there was the occasional carry-out-the-trash kid chore but mostly, my parents reasoned, childhood was to be childhood. There would be plenty of time for work later, which explains why – with little to encroach on my reading time – I’d read all three novels by mid-June.

And what spectacular
two weeks they were.

Even today, when I smell peppermint candy, I’m transported back to those yellow-and-green-bound books and their characters, especially the poverty-stricken little family in Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, since I devoured the majority of the peppermints during that one. By the time I got to Heidi and certainly by the time Alcott’s Jo and her sisters entered my consciousness, the peppermints were gone. So Heidi, Jo, and her three sisters reside in my memory pretty much scent-free.

To what did I owe this gift
that kept on giving?

My Best-Ever Christmas was largely the result of my parents’ childless, CITY-shopping escapade, I’d just like to point out. However, I have to admit that the very best part of it – the desk – was strictly home-made on the farm by a farmer and his wife during a few spare winter afternoons. Not very glamorous. Not very sleek. Certainly not expensive, as it was made of pine and Masonite. But absolutely perfect.

Pay-Attention Tip
of the Day

How did they know that a home-made desk and all its accoutrements would turn an ordinary Christmas into The Best-Ever Christmas for their odd little girl? Funny you should ask, as I was just preparing to tell you: they were paying attention to their odd little girl’s innate aptitude and made their gift-giving plans accordingly.

Carefully thought-out gift giving, whether it’s a book or not, gives and gives and gives and gives…. Here I am, fifty-eight years later, still enjoying just reminiscing about my wonderful parents who assembled those very appropriate gifts for my Best-Ever Christmas. That’s some gift-giving!

Your carefully thought-out gift-giving will keep on giving and giving and giving to your friends and family, too. Knock yourself out this Christmas season. Just do a lot of thinking first – especially if you have a few odd characters on your list since, trust me, their gifts require a good deal more thinking.

Odd #10 is out of the cooker and ready for reading. Enjoy, but FYI, it begins with a naive nine-year-old’s perspective.

©2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious. – Martin Luther

Luther nailed it way back in the early 1500s!