Mazzuca: The perfect gift
Attendant to the Christmas season comes the inevitable search for that perfect gift. Now I don’t know if there is actually such a thing as a perfect gift; nonetheless, many years ago I heard a story about a gift that comes pretty darned close to describing one, and with the season already upon us, I thought I’d share it and who knows, after reading the story, perhaps you too may rethink that “perfect gift.”
The white envelope
Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it — overspending, crowded stores and the frantic running around at the last minute to find that perfect gift. Knowing Mike felt this way, one year his wife Judy decided to bypass the usual golf shirts and ties and decided to find a present for Mike that was different, perhaps even unique, and of course, something he would long remember, and Judy’s inspiration came in a very unusual way.
The couple’s son was on the high school’s wrestling team and shortly before Christmas, the school was to have a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. The kids from the inner city were dressed in non-matching “uniforms” with sneakers so worn it appeared as though the only thing holding them together were their shoestrings. The inner-city kids presented a stark contrast to Mike and Judy’s son’s team that sported spiffy green and gold uniforms and new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, Judy took note that the inner-city team had no headgear — you know the kind, a light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. Obviously this was a “luxury” the ragtag kids from the inner city couldn’t afford. The “Green & Gold” walloped the inner-city kids, winning every weight class.
Afterward, Mike turned to Judy, shook his head and said, “I wish just one of them could have won. They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could be demoralizing for these boys.” Now Mike may not have loved Christmas, but he loved kids — all kids, and had been involved in various youth programs for years.
The next day with Mike’s words still resonating, Judy went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. Then on Christmas Eve, she placed a small, white envelope on the tree with a note inside telling Mike what she had done and letting him know this was his special gift.
The next year Judy arranged for a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to attend a hockey game, another year she gave a check to a family of immigrants who were struggling, the year after that, another act of compassionate generosity and so forth. After a few years, the white envelope became the highlight of the family Christmas. It was always the first thing opened on Christmas morning, and even the family’s children, ignoring their own new toys, would stand in wide-eyed anticipation as their dad opened the envelope to reveal his gift. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope remained.
But the story doesn’t end here. You see, Mike died of cancer not too many years later and when Christmas rolled around, a widowed Judy was still so grief-stricken she was barely able to decorate the tree. Nonetheless, Christmas Eve found her placing a white envelope atop the tree just as she had been doing for years.
But this year when Judy awoke on Christmas morning she found to her surprise that her envelope had magically been joined by three more. Unbeknownst to her and each other, all three of Mike and Judy’s children had for the first time wedged their own white envelopes in the tree in remembrance for their recently deceased father.
Perhaps the most wonderful part of this story is that Mike and Judy’s tradition lives on. And to this day, the small white envelope is the highlight of Christmas morning; but now it’s the grandchildren who wait anxiously for the white envelope to be opened.
So to each of you, I wish you peace, happiness and a bit of merriment during this holiday season.
Quote of the day: “The best present a man can give to a woman is “being present.” — Unknown
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. Follow him on his blog at butchmazzuca.com.