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Darrell Huckaby - Gift giving a chance to show love

Alright. A show of hands. How many of you still haven't finished your Christmas shopping?

I feel lots better now. I thought I was the only one.

Dare I ask? How many of you haven't even started doing your Christmas shopping yet?

Oooh. Now I feel a little lonely.

Look y'all. This shopping thing is way over-rated. Christmas ain't about the gifts. Not really. And I am going to practice saying that over and over and over between now and Christmas morning, just in case the offerings I have yet to find are met with pooched out lips and long faces around my own Christmas tree.

As long as we are having this little question and answer session here - even though a rather one-sided session it might be - why don't I ask another question or two? You don't have to answer, although feel free if the mood strikes you. My purpose is just to elicit a little Christmas cheer as we journey together through the recesses of our collective memories.

Let's go back to childhood - which may be a lot farther back for some than others. Best Christmas gift ever? Let's go with the toy variety, since we are talking childhood.

Not even close for me. One year Santa brought me a Lionel electric train. It had a locomotive and a gondola (which I called the coal car) and a couple of box cars and a flat car and a caboose. The oval track was even mounted on plywood - and had an oval within an oval, which meant I could switch the track and make the train go in different directions.

I bet Linda King and I watched that train travel 100,000 miles over that little oval track. Best toy ever. Bar none.

There were other great toys, of course. One year I got a little basketball game that used spring-loaded levers to propel a ping-pong ball through two plastic baskets. I played with that thing for years and scored more points than Jerry West. Another year I got a Play-Doh Fun Factory and another year I got a Johnny Reb cannon. I never did get that B-B gun, though. I only had one good eye and I guess my mama didn't want to take a chance on my getting it put out, too.

Speaking of which, if you're done thinking about the best toys you got - what were the biggest disappointments? I already mentioned the B-B gun. That was on my list every year forever. How about you? Anybody out there have their heart set on a Moped and wind up with an erector set? How about you girls? Anybody out there irreparably harmed because you got a chemistry set when what you really wanted was an Easy Bake Oven?

This is fun, isn't it? I like to take time to reminisce. Life used to be a lot simpler and I bet that if you start thinking you wind up thinking about more pleasant memories than sad ones.

I have received some wonderful gifts as an adult, too. I will never forget the Christmas after my father died. That's when I found out that I had some people who really loved me. They knew how much I was hurting and wanted to do anything they could to help ease the pain, by showing that they cared. I realize that no Christmas gift could ever make up for the loss of a loved one and so did they - but it's always the thought that counts, and knowing that people were thinking about me really helped me get through a rough time. It made me cry a lot, too, but it helped me get through a rough time.

Danny Preston took me to the Masters that year. On a Sunday, too. Sandy Lyle chipped in on 18 to win. It's still the only round of golf I have ever seen at Augusta National.

My mama gave me a beautiful, hand-sewn red, white, and blue quilt that year. I know it is a bit clichéd to say that there was love sewn into every stitch, but I also know that there was. I have that quilt on the wall of my classroom now and I and about a hundred students a day get to enjoy its beauty. My friend Jeff Autry gave me a life-sized hand-carving of an American Bald Eagle that year for Christmas. I've never seen a finer work of art and I look at it - and think of Jeff, who is himself too long gone from us - every day. And I don't see an eagle or a wood carving; I see love.

And I guess that's the real reason I have put off Christmas shopping until the last minute. It is so hard to find a gift that says love to the people in our lives - so we substitute sweaters and electronics and jewelry and books and stuff that makes us smell good. Plus, God gave us his only son on that first Christmas, and when you start the whole thing off by showing that kind of love, well, it's hard for us to match that gift.

But I'll figure out something. I always do. I hope you do, too. Merry Christmas from my house to yours, and let me hear those horror stories about the Easy Bake Ovens you did or didn't get.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.