I don’t know who gave me my Unopened Gift. I can’t remember the year or the occasion. Its wrapping is faded. Its wayward ribbon, less tinsel shiny. Not as bright as once before.
Sitting here thinking about my Unopened Gift at the onset of holiday time, I wonder if I should even bother to open it – like the year before, and the year before that. I hesitate … Yet, if I don’t who will?
My Unopened Gift sits on the windowsill as the wintry world passes by. Surely there’s some sort of contest of wills going on. The four-square box versus my four-square mind. I fancy somehow we’re both playing some ongoing waiting game.
If my parents gave me my Unopened Gift, the giving must have been for a birthday early on. Perhaps it was for a Christmas shortly just after I ceased to believe in Santa, but still believed in angels, grown-ups who keep their promises, friendships that possibly go on giving forever.
Maybe it was the year that I received too many presents – say seven, eight, possibly nine – that the Unopened Gift – because it didn’t rattle, jingle, shake, come with a windup key – got shunted aside, buried under wrappings joyfully torn apart – put down as nothing more noteworthy than socks, shirts, sticky fruitcake in a ring.
I’m sure my mother must have said, “You haven’t touched your Unopened Gift. Aren’t you even a little bit curious, Bobby?” And I, knowing myself now as I think I do, must have answered with boyish energy, seeking out the sunshine of another day’s kick-the-can, “After going out to play, I’ll open it.” But, distracted kicker that I was, I never did.
There’s a possibility my Unopened Gift was given to me at high school graduation. My friends all received gifts. I saw pictures. I heard stories. I envied the $100 checks. Car keys. Flight tickets to fanciful places. And I must have said, “I’m sure my Unopened Gift is nothing in comparison to show anyone. Who’d care, anyway?”
As though it were yesterday, I remember in my 30s being asked by my first of many partners, “What’s in the unopened box sitting on our shelf? Are you keeping something special from me? Just for the heck of it, let’s invite guests. Open it. Make a party of it.”
“Maybe next year,” I hesitated, not really sure our guests would be pleased. But next year never came. For either guests, or the two of us.
Each time I moved, I carried my Unopened Gift with me. (I moved many times.) It became a memento of the past. A possible surprise for the future. “I’ll open it when I’m successful. Or rich. When I deem the timing right. Just maybe for kicks when I’ve nothing more important to do. Truth is: the Unopened Gift keeps me (and others) guessing.”
Embarrassing to tell – you do desparate things when you reach a certain, this-way, that-way age – you know, middle age. Women have serial plastic surgery. Men tint beards. Buy butch-cut toupees. I decided a while ago to have a drama-queen yard sale. Get rid of all accumulated clutter, and that included my Unopened Gift.
As yard sales go, it went superbly well. I was pleased. I sold all my books. My old movie collection. My class ring. It was only when I folded up the last display table that I found much to my surprise – completely to my wonderment – my Unopened Gift. So…
If you know someone who’ll be alone this Christmas, alone with one lifelong Unopened Gift to unwrap – possibly exchange – please get in touch with them. And me. Bless you!