It started out innocently, the first year I was old enough buy a gift for him with my own money. As the oldest child, I felt I had done something that reeked of specialness, of significance. That first Christmas sweater was grey. It had large buttons and a cable knit design that my mother loved to knit when she was not mothering eight children. Boxed and wrapped, I placed it under the tree in high anticipation of its appreciation. (Mom said so.)
Here I must point out that my Dad was taciturn in personality. Christmas was the one time of the year that he broke from that self-imposed formalness and actually seemed to be more jovial. He ate chocolates and played games, and joined in the fun. When someone squealed to him that there was a present for him under the tree from me, he made a huge production of it. That long, drawn out week before Christmas morning, He would pick the present up as he sat in his favorite recliner chair by the tree and shake it gently…trying to guess the contents.
Was it a violin? I giggled and shook my head, no. A wallet then…boxed to fool him? I refused to answer. He would have to wait for Christmas like the rest of us. Then disaster struck. Christmas Eve had finally arrived and Mom was brewing up a batch of spiced hot cider in the kitchen. My younger siblings and I were stringing popcorn garlands for the tree. Dad reached down, picking up the package that had become a nightly ritual and looking at me intently in the eye said. “Does it have buttons?”
My face betrayed me. Viewing my crestfallen face, he crowed triumphantly. I was tearful but turned my face away. My surprise was spoiled. Another game he had won. That is another story. He, on the other hand was quite happy with his gift that Christmas morning. For the next ten years, I bought him a Christmas sweater. I never put it under the tree until Christmas Eve.
Each time I would put it in his hands he would look me wickedly in the eye though with his Cheshire cat grin and still try to guess, “Does it have buttons?” Sometimes it had a zipper.
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