A present remained under the tree.
I hadn’t noticed that the box had been pushed into a corner, intentionally put aside like the last one to be opened. The importance was lost to me, even after mom moved it in my direction.
Christmas has always been special in my parents’ house. They did it that way.
Santa has come to the foot of your bed where he left a large pile of unwrapped gifts. You can wake up at 3 in the morning and start straight into the excitement. Then, under the tree, there were other wrapped gifts from mom and dad. As a kid we would go about all the presents, throw away the gift wrap, get a face full of chocolate, and before dawn we would make the short drive to my grandparents’ house to start over.
But at Christmas 1991, the goal was quite different. My children and the children of my sisters were the center of our universe. I had discovered a long time ago that gifts for dads were much more practical and much less exciting.
The mystery of this last box was therefore lost for me. My first clue was to notice that the other adults in the room were all looking in my direction. Then they silenced the children and as I pulled the bow out of the box I realized that this gift was important to everyone.
Tearing off the ribbon and opening the box, I saw it. Inside the box was a worn and faded Indian cookie jar.
And I cried.
As far back as I can remember, that same cookie jar had been installed in my parents’ kitchen. From his perch above the refrigerator, that familiar face stoically watched every meal, homework, and board game that crossed that table.
The house in the basement where I grew up had an entrance and an exit. The Indian saw it all come and go from my first day of school to graduation until the day I left in a beige tuxedo to get married. He was there whenever his family and friends stopped by and he watched my wife and I bring new babies to visit their grandparents.
During this time, the jar never contained a single cookie. I guess we were too poor to have a garbage drawer and the Indian head was used for this purpose. It was a jar of junk.
If you were looking for an oddly sized screw, take a look. When you need a rubber band or a deck of 51 playing cards, this is where you will find them. Lost game pieces, my father’s spare safety glasses, and sometimes important papers like the car registration were kept there.
The cookie jar was empty this Christmas morning. But at my request, mom has gathered some of these discarded items and they’re all inside, waiting to be remembered and needed.
The monetary value of this cookie jar is insignificant. This is a McCoy design and you can find it illustrated in collection guides. But most painted highlights have long faded with handling.
Its value to me is in the memories. This Christmas, my parents gave me a symbol of my childhood.
In addition to the junk inside, this piece of ceramic carries precious memories and warm feelings of security, safety and love.
May this Christmas bring you all the same.
Ben Sheroan is editor-in-chief of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 270-505-1403 or [email protected]