Each Christmas Day Contains the Past, Present and Future
By the late, SHELBY STROTHER
It did not matter that the wind-chill was life threatening. It was Christmas morning, and a bright sun stabbed the frozen land. And children were playing.
The decision over which to play with – the official World Cup soccer ball or the Turbo Football – never materialized. With all the snow, a soccer match was out of the question. So spirals of pink and black performed in the most sincere imitations of Rodney Peete and Joe Montana floated back and forth in the yard.
What a nice sight.
The Annual Second Chance is near – it’s called New Year’s Eve. It is the window of opportunity where the hopes and fears of all the year (not to mention the mistakes) can be erased.
But Christmas Day is a time of reinforcement and the essence of tomorrow. And children playing with toys are the finest examples of what that tomorrow looks like.
I look out the window. I’ve been in that yard. All young boys have. Sports become such a part of childhood. Santa is aware of all of this, naturally.
This particular day is exquisite, I think to myself. I take personal inventory, not only of blessings and personal satisfaction, but of the presents of Christmas past. Still the kid, I suppose.
I got my first basketball when I was six. I made my first basket a year later. There was a tetherball set; I must have been eight. And a football helmet when I was ten. A Carl Furillo-model baseball mitt at eleven. There were tennis rackets and fishing poles and boxing gloves and shrimp nets and a Mickey Mantle 32-inch Little League bat and one time, even a badminton set.
Every Christmas, I’d play out my dreams and my mind would fly over the rainbow, imagining my propulsion. Of course, I would become a major-leaguer, an All-Star, an all-time great, a Hall of Famer. We all would. My vision extended well beyond the day.
My athletic ability, alas, never kept stride. It was not the worst realization I would ever make.
But I have noticed a direct correlation between Christmas gifts and sporting dreams. The dreams are for the young. So are the gifts. Usually, the two disappear in unison. The rare few who project into greatness discover they do not need imagination to make those lofty flights of fantasy. Hope is not the co-pilot. Expectation is.
It must be a wonderful view.
I was thinking about all of this when another memory nudged me. My 17th Christmas I got a typewriter.
It was about the same time that I’d maneuvered my fantasy a few extra miles. I’d received a baseball scholarship to pitch at a small school in Florida. There were other opportunities, other colleges available. But none that would allow my athletic vision to continue.
I had expected a Christmas of more games in the yard. More dreams to celebrate. I got a typewriter instead.
“What am I going to do with a typewriter?” I asked.
My mother said I’d need it for college. But she also said, “Sometimes you get too old to play games. But you never get too old that you can’t use your imagination.”
Sometimes Christmas is taken for granted. Almost always, in fact. I think Christmas music, and I hear bells. I turn on the radio and I hear someone named Elmo and Patsy lamenting their grandmother’s head-on collision with a reindeer. I think of the meaning of Christmas, and I think of the most special birthday in the history of the world. But I turn on the TV and there are all these Claymation raisins doing Doo-Wop homages to the joys of buying machines wherein a microchip can seize command of entire generations.
Christmas (will soon) be gone, 364 days to go. But children still play. They chase the wonderful image of themselves as they would like to be seen. Christmas is their favorite arena. But they settle for lesser stadia.
But remember this – the present is sometimes confused with the package it comes wrapped in. Sometimes the gift is simply the freedom to imagine. There may be no greater one.
It was a great typewriter. I still play with it.
– A column by Shelby Strother