When I think back through my childhood, I can’t recall many gifts that I received. I know we always had lots of things to open on Christmas. But, I can not recall any of them. Except the year I got a bicycle. And, I heard them bringing it in the house after I should have been asleep. This had to be about 4th grade. I spent all Christmas Day learning to ride it. I don’t remember any birthday presents either. But, I do remember birthday parties. Just none of the gifts made an impression on me…except for one.
There were several families, especially the J’s and the J’s who had children around our ages, who lived in our neighborhood. Things were so different then. We could have races down the street with the hill…over and over and over and never worry about cars. And, there was the flat street further over. There were also some other children who lived around the area who played with us too, but we were closest with the J’s and the J’s. On this particular day, all the kids were over 2 streets from our house. Joy and I could not go 2 streets over unless Mom or some adult that she deemed responsible was with us. Lydia and Angela and another girl all had skates, and they were skating on the flat street. Now, Joy would push the envelope ALLLLLL the time, but me…being the older and wiser sister…would always try to pull her back onto the straight and narrow. She said we could sneak over there and see them skate and get back home while Mama was ironing. No, too risky. Paths of unrighteousness, I tell you. We (I) asked Mom and she said she would walk over there with us. Mrs. L and Mrs. J were already there. These were the mother of Lydia and Angela…who had the coveted skates.
Now, I’m not sure why we wanted to go over there since we had no skates. Probably Joy’s idea. But there we were. So they were having the time of their lives skating one way and then the next. Skating up and down. Skating alone and holding hands. And, laughing all the time. And, there Joy and I sat, on the curb, head in hands and elbows on knees. Friends, I was sinning. I know I was. Cause I was coveting. I wanted those skate so bad. And, Lydia and Angela had the nerve to wave every time they whizzed by on those silver wheels. I wanted THEIR skates. I wanted them to jump off their feet and land on mine. So that was probably another sin right there. Yes, Mam. I wanted the skates to be mine and for them not to have any! It just wasn’t fair!
Oh, I could just picture myself. I’d run home and change into my tights and short flippy skirt…and the cute stretchy headband I had just gotten. Then I would sit down…very ladylike…with legs leaning to one side . Not one leg over here and another over there for the whole world to see your panties and give your mother a heart attack because you would forever be a girl of loose morals and it all started that day in the 3rd grade! OK, then! I would slide that bar tight to the sides of my black and white oxfords and then lock it into place with my key. My skate key! Oh, that wonderful key! The key that so many of the girls wore around their neck. Even to school or when riding bikes. That heavy grey metal key hung round their neck, shouting, “See me! I’m a key! A wonderful, beautiful skate key! This darling girl who has it around her neck owns my skates. And, you don’t have any! But, she does and she is the coolest girl ever.” At least that’s what it sounded like to me. They just looked dumb. And, I……I wanted to look just like that! Add sin #3..wishing a friend to be unhappy so I could be happy. Surely the Lord covered that in the 1o Rules for Adults and Children. I would have used a pretty cord, too, instead of that ball chain!
Well, finally Mrs L called Lydia over and told her that she needed to share her skates and let me have a turn. Well, of course she should! But, that was not exactly what Lydia had in mind for this warm spring afternoon. No, taking off her skates so I could use them while she sat and watched was not a fun thought. For her. But, it was like the angels singing The Hallelujah Chorus to me, I jumped up and forgot all about the tights and flippy skirt. I just wanted to glide down the street…wind whipping my hair…key around my neck. Well it took two more warnings and the threat of Mrs L taking those skates and throwing them in the dumpster with the dirty and the rats and roaches. Lydia slammed her little fanny down on the side walk curb and jerked those skates off her feet. Her arms were folded across her chest and little puffs of smoke were coming out of her ears. So, I carefully picked up them up and sat down and tried to fit the skate onto my shoe. But, alas, I needed the key. (YEAH!!!) I sure didn’t want to ask for it. But, I forced myself. I said in my best friend voice, ” Lydia, can I use the key, please?” And, y’all, she took it off and chunked it in my direction. Her mother happened to be between she and I, and the key came down…oh it did!..it came down right on her Mama’s head! And y’all again, if looks could punish, she would still be ‘wearing her out’ while she danced around and cried bloody murder. Mrs. L remembered then that she was a Christian setting an example for the little children, and handed the key to me and said, “Here you go, shug. Now you take a ride on those skates.” And, she looked over at Lydia and bored 2 holes right through her head with just her eyes!
Somehow the fun was fast slipping away. I didn’t even want to try them out now. I looked over at Mama and she told me to try them out once…up the street and down…and then give them back. So, that’s what I did. I’m sure I looked divine, but I didn’t even care. They weren’t my skates, and the Lydia did not want me to wear them. The fun I thought it would be was gone. So, I came back to the curb and used the wonderful, magical key to take them off. I sat them down, side by side, very neatly, and handed the key to Mrs. L. And, I said “thank you”. She told me she was sorry Lydia had acted like that. And, Lydia was just sitting there, arms folded, shooting daggers at anyone and everyone. Mrs. J called Angela over and told her to let Joy have a turn now, but, it was not to be. Joy’s feet were just too small. So, Angela asked me if I wanted a turn, but I said I didn’t.
Then, my Mama did a very strange thing. She asked Mrs. L if she knew Mr O’s phone number at work. And, she told her what it was. Mom asked Mrs. J and Mrs.L if they would watch us for a minute and could she go to Mrs. Lessie’s house and use her phone? (That was the closest house to where we were). Mrs. L told her to hurry. And, off Mom ran on some mission. Lydia got her skates back and off she went to catch up with Angela. And, Joy and I sat and watched. In a little bit, Mom came back. I thought for sure she would say we had to go. I was hoping she’d say we had to go. But, no, she sat down and went back to talking to the other mothers. And, Joy and I sat and thought wrong thoughts because we did not have any skates and they would not share. I feel quite certain that I may have said something unkind to Joy for getting us into this mess. And, the ladies talked and we sat and they talked and we sat. The Mothers were enjoying their chat, and the girls were enjoying the skating. And, we were sitting on the curb like a doofus and her sister. I swore (another sin) that if I ever got home, I would never come back and watch them skate ever again in my whole entire life.
In about 30 minutes or so, we saw Mr. O drive into his driveway, coming home from work. He worked at Sears. He got out and went into the house and in a few minutes, he came out where the Mothers were sitting and handed the package to Mom. He said, “I was able to get your package…the only one left.” Mother told him thank-you, and that she would send Tonja Lynn (me) over to their house in a little bit with a check. Now, maybe we could go home. Mom called me to come over where she was and said, “I think you will find something in here that you will like.” And, she gave me the brown Sears bag. I took it and reached inside. There was a box inside and I pulled it out. You know what it was, don’t you?
I remember jumping around like I’d gotten into a swarm of bees and hugging my Mama again and again. Joy was agast! Where were hers? But, she didn’t say anything. Mom and Pop had taught us from a very early age that we would not always get the same things. One of us may get something we needed, but it could be the other one next. It was based on the situation. And, we also learned it was in our best interest not to question this decision our parents made. And, besides, it was working pretty well in my favor, at the moment!
I can see myself sitting on the curb and fitting them to my shoes. Mr. O helped. But, that’s it. I do not remember skating with them. Or skating along with my friends. I don’t remember ever using them at all. Though I am sure I did!The memory is of the gift. Oh! they were shiny! And, no scratches on the wheels. And, there it was….the KEY! I was a happy girl. The blue birds of happiness had flown right down and lit on my shoulders. They held a banner in their beak that said, THIS IS ONE HAPPY GIRL I’m pretty sure I saw flutter byes flying around, too.
Mom gave me something I dearly wanted. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t say a word about skates. It was a gift out of the blue. As excited as I was to get them…I wonder why I don’t remember ever using them? Maybe the ‘giving’ of the gift was of more importance than the gift itself. Perhaps the knowing that my Mom wanted me to have something I longed for was of some importance to me. I remember how it felt when I realized what she had done. How special I felt! I feel the same way today some 50 years later. And, let’s be honest here…I had committed 3 sins while sitting there, and I don’t remember ever repenting. So, I guess I probably…well…maybe…just a tiny bit did not deserve them.
There is much to think upon when you think back on the gifts that have made an impression on you through the years.
Feel free to play along, if you like…..