4 min read

The Little Box of Memories

The thing that makes a gift is the giving, not the getting.
The Little Box of Memories

Who in their right mind lets a kid play with an axe?

This is a question that anyone with a scruple of sanity must ask themselves when presented with the old Georgie Washington story about being unable to tell a lie.

If you've never heard this malarkey, here's the Cliff Notes version:

There was once a cherry tree. It was minding its own business until some little jackass with an axe decided to make lumberjack practice out of it. His father was less than amused. The aforementioned parental unit asked how this separation of trunk and body came to be. Georgie stated in his succinct defense brief, "It was dressed too sexy, and I couldn't help myself."

Okay, so that's not the truth. That only works in sexual harassment cases when the defendant has exorbitant amounts of money. What Georgie was reputed to have actually said was, "Father, I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down that cherry tree."

If they'd been Catholic, he might have gotten a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers, but he had the misfortune of being Protestant, so an undiluted Grade A tail-whooping was on the table.

His father let him walk unpunished. Kids will be kids, they say. Apparently, the whole "spoil the rod" thing isn't in the evangelical playbook anymore. At least not where it belongs.

I'm interested in the cherries more than the petulance. Around the holidays, my grandpa was also interested in the chocolate-covered kind.

My grandpa never worked an actual nine-to-five that anyone could recall, and he wasn't the wealthy fella in town, but they both tangled with real estate. The richer folks dealt with big buildings and properties, and grandpa built houses for cash and goods under the table. He probably built the damned table, too.

This is why his expansive cornucopia shopping mall was a little pharmacy in downtown Buford. If he owned it and didn't make it, then it probably came from there. Grandpa wasn't the most religious man, either, but when it came down to brass tacks, the Buford Pharmacy was the blessed fount that flowed.

One specific blessing that flowed was itself in the shape of a building material. While Grandpa was a man of wood and metal, the traditional Christmas present that could be expected like clockwork every year was shaped like a brick.

It was always, and I mean always, a box of chocolate-covered cherries. He didn't try to wrap them, they didn't come with a card, and it didn't matter what in the hell you gave him; you knew exactly what he was going to give to you. It would irritate me as a kid because, as any parent that has watched their kids at Christmas knows, the celebration of Jesus' birth is a bandit's endeavor. You might as well be raising a pack of raccoons.

Look, eating a chocolate-covered cherry is a warped art form in itself. First off, the thing appears to be a burnt eyeball, which starts the jokes. So you take your tongue and melt off a hole in the top layer of the candy until the white sugary liquid and the cherry are exposed and spend the next few minutes making boob jokes.

The boob jokes occur one time in the presence of adults, at which point you are soundly smacked upside the head like they are killing a bug; count the remaining stars you can see and swear to yourself that you don't understand their lack of humor when they laugh at worse things on television.

Then you suck the cherry through the crater, grind it in your teeth and return to eyeball jokes which are apparently more suited to the audience demographic. Sometimes you get a tough crowd. You can't set 'em straight like Bill Burr and then walk offstage. You actually have to live with these people, and they own everything.

I threatened to run away from home once when I was about 13 because I'd seen it on an After School Special or some nonsense. My father hastily agreed with my desire to strike out on my own and pursue the romantic notion of manhood.

"I think you'd agree that it would be stealing to leave this house with anything I had paid for, correct?" he asked.

"Why that's right," this little idiot answered.

After pointing out that every stitch of clothing I had on had been paid for by him and demanding their swift return, I stood, berries in the wind and a gentle breeze in the crack of my buttocks, contemplating my life decisions in the doorway of the family home in plain view to the confused outside world.

When I got my first paycheck at 16, I bought my own clothes. You don't fall for this garbage twice.

I learned the lessons well once I got older. The best gifts are given out of a sense of good intention and based on an ability to provide them. In that world, an orange and a toy car are the same. Like equivalence of form in Kabbalah, the intention of the gift dictated the value and not the content of the actual gift. Back then, I was a little trash panda digging away for the best I could get. Screw intention.

Now, as an adult with little critters of my own, I understand why that was the best I could get, and now I'm grateful for the precious portion of what I got.

May you have a very Happy Holiday.