1998 - Conclusion
The Special Box ...................In the 1970's my father called me and said he had discovered a magical store. "You love Christmas so much you HAVE to see this store!" So together we went to STATS. Stats is a craft store that is transformed into a fairyland during the Christmas season. I fell in love with the beauty and uniqueness of what I would see in Stats and it became a tradition for my father and I to visit the store every year. I rarely bought anything on our traditional visits; our visits were for magic, not for buying.
In the '80's my father and I were slowly walking through the store when I spotted something so unique it took my breath away. Beautiful, small, iridescent, luminous, glass balls were crafted together like clusters of grapes. The light caught and sparkled in a dozen different colors off of those beautiful grape clusters. My delight in the glitz and glitter of the season was epitomized in those beautiful balls. I instantly fell in love. But the grape clusters cost $24.00 a cluster. $24.00 was prohibitive. I would need at least a dozen of the clusters to scatter among the branches of my Christmas tree.
My father saw the wonder and amazement on my face. He took my hand and squeezed while he quietly said, "You know, everything in this store is reduced 50% the day after Christmas. If you came then they would only cost $12.50 apiece."
"Pop, people get here at 4:00 a.m. the day after Christmas. Sometimes the line goes around the corner. I don't think it would be safe for me to do that by myself, and who else is going to want to get up at 3:00 in the morning, the day after Christmas, so I can buy 'grape clusters?" I laughed.
"I will," my sweet father said.
My memories of my father and me standing in that long line in Stat's parking lot at 4:00 in the morning, the day after Christmas.....................one of the sweetest memories I have of my wonderful father is packed in the box with those beautiful sparkling grape clusters. Every year when I chose the special branches where the grapes would rest I would see my father's beautiful face radiating from the sparkles of light dancing off of the iridescent grape clusters.
AND NOW THE BOX WAS GONE!!!!!!!!
I was trying my hardest to make it through the Holiday without dumping the guilt of the lost box on anyone, but I felt real grief over the loss. Apparently, I wasn't as good at masking my feelings as I thought, or maybe my son had given thought to the loss of the memories too. A week before Christmas my son announced that he, Jim, and I were going to go sit outside, and he and Jim were going to pull every box out of the shed. They were going to put them beside me and I was going to go through them piece by piece until the missing grapes were found. And we did that. It was a huge task and the men became exhausted with the hauling back and forth, but it was their effort to make Christmas special, and they kept at it until every box had been re-opened and closed. The special box was never found.
The Holidays were over and I had re-packed all of the decorations. The only thing left was the Christmas tree. Jim and my son hauled in the long, ungainly box. "This box feels heavy for an empty box," my son said as he lifted the flaps and peeked inside. What the heck is this box doing inside the tree box?"
"THAT'S IT, THAT'S THE SPECIAL BOX!!" I yelled.
The memories and the grape clusters had been found.
Even though Jim was overjoyed that the box had been found and he admitted to scooping up boxes and dumping them inside other boxes when my mother and father were visiting he had no direct memory of the special box. He hadn't pulled the tree box out of the shed when we were searching through the boxes because it was large, unyielding, and he had "personally gone through it" and testified to the fact that itwas empty.
Jim and my son laughed and harangued one another the whole day over who was the villain and who was the hero. At the end of the day it was decided that the solution to it never happening again would be a large piece of white paper taped to the box with these words written in red marker: JIM..................BEWARE OF EVER TOUCHING THIS BOX. YOUR LIFE COULD BE IN SERIOUS DANGER!!!!
This story is one of my favorite Christmas memories. It evokes tears, laughter, and tugs at my heart. My father, my mother, Jim, and Barkly the dog are all gone now. But I saw them as the light caught in the iridescent, luminous, sparkle of the grape clusters as I gently put them on the branches of the Christmas tree.