It’s the nostalgic time of year, multi colored lights strung across and wrapped around a dead tree, the stockings hung meticulously. They’ll fall off and almost every other day I pick them up, and place them on the hooks again. It’s the time of year where I rush hoping to get last minute gifts at department stores. Hoping I did enough. Wanting to give more, so much more. But knowing I did the best I could.
This year, I wanted to get my husband one of those robotic little disc floor vacuum cleaners, the iRobot Roomba. This is not an endorsement, I just liked the thought of turning it on and watching it work and not hearing the god-forsaken loud vacuum noise. When the idea lit in my head, I immediately went to eBay and started frantically searching for a deal. I then decided, there is no deal and said to myself: “Oh hell no! The little robot vacuum is WAY out of our budget.” I can tolerate the loud push monster until I die. It’s not so bad. Plus it’s like a workout. Carry the bulky contraption up one flight of stairs, unwind the cord, crawl in the corner to plug it in and push. Put the accessories together, while beads of sweat begin to form on my forehead, and vacuum baseboards and couches and cob-webbed corners. Yea, we’re good on vacuums. I need the push vacuum to help maintain my nonexistent workout regime.
My mind swirls around to our first Christmas, my husband and mine’s gift-giving beginning when we first started dating. We sat in his parents’ basement and did our first exchange of gifts. We’d only known each other for about four months. What do you buy the boyfriend you’ve known for four months? The complete CKY box set, because you remembered him talking about how funny those guys are. And it’s how Jackass really began. I only remember buying that gift for him. Nothing too big. Nothing too formal. Here’s some DVD’s. I hope they would say in their own way, “I really like you, strange boy I’ve been dating for four months.”
His gift had much more thought and care placed into it. He had to bring them downstairs because he couldn’t wrap them. They were too large and fragile. A clear vase with teal colors painted at the bottom to resemble water, and inside set three large vibrant colored, perfectly sculpted flowers. From top to bottom, the gift was fragile and I sat enamored and terrified. I didn’t want to break my brand new present from this boy.
“You said you hated flowers because they always die. These will never die.” He told me as we sat in the floor staring at the red, blue, and yellow blooms. He had listened. Because I did indeed hate real flowers, they would arrive with their beauty, but eventually they rotted and were thrown in the trash. I tried drying them to preserve them, but the petals would fall off and eventually, little by little, I’d throw away bits and pieces of dried crumpled dust flowers.
I’d never have to throw my glass flowers away, I remember thinking. I would always have these flowers, gigantic half-opened buds from a boy who said he loved me. I just had to be extremely careful every time we moved. Or when I took them to my new job to sit them on my desk. Or when I quit that job and hastily loaded them in the car to go home. The flowers went a lot of years and a lot of places with me, always remaining intact. Occasionally I did manage to chip a petal or cause a knick in the vase, but nothing that would cause them to lose their beauty, and extremely high sentimental value.
It would be a cold winter day, after our 4th or 5th Christmas together, when the flowers fell to their end. A cat misjudged the space and caused them crash against the hardwood floor in our attic apartment. The vase remained, but the flowers shattered with broken stems and shards littering our enclosed alcove.
I salvaged a bloom and put it to rest where most of life lies dying these days, in my blue footlocker. I learned even glass flowers are not immune to their own death. They, like the real ones, will end up swept up in the dustpan and placed outside come trash day. They just lasted longer on a shelf and a desk.
In my heart, it didn’t matter their monetary value as we’ve never had much money to spare on each other. It mattered to me that a man bought me something because he wanted to see my eyes light up at flowers forever. That neither of us could envision the flowers ever meeting their end, and they would grow old with us as we walked together through life.
But all material things have a breaking point, as do people.
And we sweep up the broken pieces and toss parts of them away. We lock their memories in boxes surrounded by our hearts.
And each year we gather more presents, place them under a dead or an artificial tree, with the hope something will be gained. We give with the hope to receive a smile from the person we love. That’s the real present, the memories of seeing a face as they open something special on Christmas morning. A gift that can’t ever break or be lost. It sits on a dusty shelf as happiness in the corners of a mind.