catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 21 :: 2007.11.16 — 2007.11.30



“What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?” It’s a popular sort of getting-to-know-you question, particularly as the holiday season nears (Christmas tunes are already playing on the easy-listening radio station). Some will recount stories of that Easy-Bake Oven they’d wanted for months, or the puppy they’d begged for. Ralphie got his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. I always end up stumped by this question.

The Christmas that I was eight, my brother got our whole family tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera in Detroit. Perhaps some of the reason was just to shut me up—I enjoyed putting on my own productions of Phantom in our living room, complete with singing and dancing in a way that only an un-self-conscious eight-year-old is able. Whatever his motivation, I was thrilled with the prospect of seeing this musical I had all but memorized. My parents decided to make a weekend of it, and called for hotel reservations. I set out my purple duffle bag, ready to travel.

When the time came, the four of us (my parents, my brother, and I) piled into our Honda Accord and headed east. We went to the show and sat in a beautiful, darkened theater to watch the story of Christine Daaé and her mysterious phantom mentor unfold. To this day, I remember the scare I had when the chandelier crashed down to the stage at the end of the first act, and how I pretended I would someday play the part of Meg Giry, Christine’s ballerina companion.

But I remember much more than just the show. I remember lying in a hotel-room bed, ready to go to sleep, but frightened because my brother told me the crack in our room ceiling meant the hotel was falling down. I remember getting hopelessly lost in downtown Detroit, and being able to see parts of the city I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I remember getting ready for the show—putting on my favorite wool skirt and letting my mom curl my bowl-cut hair. I particularly remember how excited I was to spend a whole weekend with my super-cool big brother.

Today my brother is married, and has a five-year-old son of his own, which makes family outings these days a little crazy and a lot of fun. He and his family live nearby, and we see a lot of each other during the holiday season (now it’s the six of us). We still exchange gifts, and it’s all too easy to get caught up in things, in the madness of Holiday Shopping.

But it’s not these tangible gifts that I cherish. It’s the look on my nephew’s face when he spots his name on a box, listing off the letters: R-Y-A-N. It’s the scent of waffles, and setting the table with the “special” dishes from the cabinet. It’s the familiar words of the Christmas story: “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” And when I become disturbed by the volume of consumerism and waste and all other manner of ridiculousness that has worked its way into the holiday season, I return to these good gifts of love and joy and solidarity.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus