Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gifts to Let Go, Gifts to Pass On

Cheryl L. McLean

With Christmas over and the New Year approaching it seemed a good time to do my cleaning and go through old boxes in the basement clearing out the old and making space for the new. Piled, stacked and stuffed in old boxes were many of the gifts of Christmas past we had given to our children over the years. Yards of neon green track (the cars had long sped away) enough Lego to build a three bedroom retirement condo, wingless planes, the back end of a sixteen wheeler (still full of little plastic pigs) and, entombed and preserved between the layers, a hairy hybrid cross between a mastodon and an anteater my kids remind me used to be called "Alf".
These were our gifts to our children. All we wanted to do was make them happy. Yes, the toys were expensive. And yes, it was Christmas, and Christmas came but once a year. I remember being a young mom waiting in the cabbage patch like all the other prospective parents for the adoption papers. And now "Abby" the cabbage patch doll at the bottom of the box was crushed under the weight of a six foot giant blue Smurf.
According to the Non Profit Canadian Toy Testing Council, toys scoring high on design, durability and function that year were big hits with the parents...something called "I Dig the Past, Dig and Grow Ancient Pet Triops" and "Play Doh Seaside Playworld" that comes with beach sand and smells like tanning lotion. Virtual life in a can is strange enough but can you imagine a dad approaching the sales clerk, dressed in his business suit and asking, without cracking a smile, "Do you have any "Play Doh Seaside Playworld" left? My son just has to have it.
So we rationalize. What would Christmas have been without our Chatty Cathy, our toy drums, GI Joes, guns and holsters, doctor kits and plastic pink princess shoes? These were our gifts. Given to many of us by our parents with all the best intentions. As I dug deep, pondering my choices and my purchases, questions surfaced. What gifts in our boxes would be worth taking? Which ones would be best to let go?
Nearing the end of the war, a gift of peace was given to the world that looked like nothing more than a giant toy drum on its side wrapped in a tangle of strings. It was something they wanted. Something they thought they couldn't survive without. Oppenheimer dreamed humanity would unite in lasting peace once aware it had the comparatively cheap and increasingly universal capability to obliterate itself. This was a drum delicately balanced on a very narrow shelf. With this new technological weapon the world would have a gift that would restore peace but it came with a risk. Mutually assured destruction.
The children of our century have gathered a bounty of gifts, the good and the bad, and yet with all they have inherited they have been given little power to control them and even less power to manage them.
But there is still room for optimism, for hope, when we are reminded that the best gifts don't end up in our basement boxes. They aren't rated on design, durability and function and yet they provide a lifetime of satisfaction. Every time you make a mistake and say you are sorry you pass on the gift of forgiveness. When you stand by your family members through both failure and success you give them the gift of unconditional love.
Excavating my way through those boxes I decided I would hold on to at least one thing...dear old Alf. Being part elephant he would help me remember. If good for nothing else these boxes and their contents remind me of our human frailties and how exasperatingly permanent those cold and miniaturized worlds can be. And, most importantly, thanks to my search, I won't forget the one thing I wish for us all and for our children this Christmas and into the future. The greatest gift of all. Peace. Pass it on.
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