Wednesday, December 7

The Perfect Gift For A Writer-to-Be

I'm a child of the 80's which means I've had the dubious distinction of having several 'techie' Christmases. There was Atari Christmas - you know, the year the Atari first came out? My older brother and I fought for game time, let me tell you. Half way through Christmas morning we were both banned from the game. A few years later the first Nintendo came out and, yeah, it was under the tree, too. Another banning from a gaming system and I was in my room - where I spent most of my time as a kid - reading one book or another that came in my stocking.

I can't remember my exact age, but I was definitely a pre-teen. Probably 11ish and we were going to Kansas City to see my great-aunt. I didn't mindgoing to see an aging relative where I wouldn't be allowed to watch TV and where mostly I'd be expected to sit and be quiet. I didn't mind because I had my secret weapon in my backpack - a fresh book to read.

She kept watching my older brother and I closely over lunch and while we were cleaning up the kitchen afterward and then, just when we figured it was Sofa City Time, she grabbed her purse and our jackets and pushed us out the door to the car. No parents. No younger siblings. We had no idea where we were going but then she pulled into the largest parking lot I'd ever seen in my life. She marched us up to the door and said she was not going to be the relative who bought us uncool underwear or socks. And then said we had the run of the store - we could pick out one thing. Anything we wanted. And that was our gift from her.

Children's Palace was a rambling monstrosity of a store - not as big as the supercenters of today but ginormous to a little country girl. I wandered aisles filled with every Barbie accessory you can imagine. Puzzles, chemistry sets. Aisle upon aisle of board games. And then I saw it, the most perfect space in the store - shelves and shelves of books. And chairs to sit, cozy up in and read. I was in heaven. I must have wandered the book aisles for a half hour before I found the perfect gift, but I was certain it was too expensive so I started looking for a second choice.

My aunt found me a little while later, holding a single, skinny edition of some pre-teen drama-laden book. I wanted it, but it wasn't what I really wanted. She poked and prodded but I wouldn't tell her about my dream gift.

We got back to the house a while later and I cozied up with my new read, just to prove that really was all I wanted. When it was time to go she sent me into the guest room to retrieve our coats and there, on the bed, was the gift I'd salivated over in the store. A collection of The Chronicles of Narnia - they were paperback but came in the coolest box I'd ever seen and a red ribbon was tied around them. But I was sure they weren't for me. After all, how could she have known? I sat down on the bed and petted that box of books. I pulled one book out, looked at the cover and caressed the spine. Then repeated that action for the rest of them. I stayed there, looking at those books for a long time, knowing that I'd done the right thing because a whole set of books had to be EXPENSIVE. Long enough that she came in after me, smiled and told me the books were for me. Just me. No sharing. No hand-me-down, no scribbles in crayon because I could put these books away where only I could reach them. My hands would dog-ear the first pages. My reading would put creases in the spines.

I cried a little and hugged her so tight she couldn't breathe. I think I forgot to say thank you, but I remember hearing her say you're welcome. And I love you.

I read and re-read those books for years until the spines broke and I had to use tape to keep them together. A lot of us grew up on the Narnia books, but for me, these were the first books that made me think, 'I want to do that'. I wanted to create a world where readers could get lost in the imagery and storytelling. Where things ended happily. And I'm blessed today to do exactly that...thanks to a little gift from a great-aunt who seemed like the perfect Santa on my favorite childhood Christmas.

16 comments:

  1. What a perfect, perfect memory. And what a perfect aunt! I'm a little sniffly here, but it's worth it. Thanks for sharing such a grand story.

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  2. What a tear jerker tale, and so sweet!
    Thanks for sharing such a special piece of your life, Kristina!
    Neecy

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  3. Aw, Liz and Neecy, so glad you stopped by. She was my favorite 'older' relative for a long time -and not just for the Narnia books. She was young, even though she was old, and she listened as much as she talked. And she always smelled of talcum powder and those heavy, heavy lipsticks from the 50s (I think she must've bought out a supply at one point or another). She passed away just before I turned 30...but she's still in my heart.

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  4. What a lovely memory Kristi! Your aunt sounds like a special lady.

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  5. she was great, Christine. thanks for stopping by today!

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  6. All right, pass the tissues...great story!
    I recieved a collection of the classics as a pre-teen, Moby Dick, Tom sawyer etc.. LOL

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  7. Love those books, too, Tammy! Lost the love in HS lit classes - whoever decided you needed to dismember novels to understand them was seriously disturbed - but regained the love once I could read for pleasure again. Thanks for coming by today!

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  8. Oh, wow. What a wonderful story. And what a wonderful aunt. I hope she knows that she planted the seeds to your writing career.

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  9. I'm glad I'm not the only one sniffling. Gotta love a relative who understands that books are friends, important in our lives. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. That is the best story! What a special aunt.

    The only gift I remember receiving from a great aunt was a tile that said, "Margie's Kitchen". She found it at a garage sale. LOL. Funny thing is, I still have it. Do you know how hard it is to find Margie anything???

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  11. Sharon, she knew. Very smart lady!

    Megan, thanks for stopping in today. Books are *definitely* friends!

    Margie, that is too funny. I can relate - 95% of the 'Kristi/Kristina' stuff out there is spelled with a CH or a Y at the end.

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  12. Loved your post! I also love those books. Haven't read them in a long time. I've taken to watching the movies now.

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  13. The movies are great, too, Shawn. You should break those books out again!

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  14. Ah, that is so great. Wonderful lady.

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  15. Wonderful Post, bought tears to my eyes. You were so lucky to have her in your life. I had an aunt who would brag to everyone about her neice, the writer. Unfortunately she didn't live to see me published but I know she's smiling down at me. Like your aunt is with you.

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