Sunday, December 9, 2012

Barbie and the Great White - A Lesson on Giving

Christmas Eve 1976 - I remember it like it was yesterday...

Grandma had cooked up her amazing Christmas Eve fare with scalloped potatoes and ham, yummy rolls, mincemeat and her eternally famous apple pie.  We were all stuffed to the brim. Grandpa got his annual after dinner headache and had to head upstairs to his room for aspirin and a nap.  All of the grandkids, knowing how these evenings went, huddled at the base of the stairs by Grandma's 1950's style wiry tree with the massive light bulbs and elves sitting in the branches.

Grandma and Grandpa had connections.  Santa made a special trip to their house to pass out their gifts to us.  We waited, not so patiently for him to descend the staircase.  Apparently he used an upstairs window to enter - not the family room chimney.

I took my special place by my uncle's TV chair and waited.  I was at the younger end of the grandkids, so the anticipation built as each one of the older kids got a gift.  The excitement was bubbling up inside. My stomach filled with butterflies. And finally Santa came my way and pulled out a white tissue wrapped gift with a colorful bow.

I took it, only able to imagine what could possibly be in that snowy white paper.  I struggled to untie the bow. Grandma was good at tying ribbons - tightly.  It wouldn't budge.  I needed to try a different strategy. So I tore into the tissue.  Layer after layer - my heart pounding with each.  What could it be?

Finally, my eyes grew big as I got to the last layer.  The grew even bigger when the veil of the gift came off.  My hands shook, my lip began to quiver, and the tears started to fall. With my gift in my hand, I ran to my mother and buried my head in her lap and cried.

Why? Why? What had I done that year? Why would the gift from Santa's bag be a Barbie doll stuffed inside of a rubber Great White Shark?

Mom soothed me and the sobbing slowed down.  But, still I didn't understand.

Later that evening when my mom was helping clean up the mess we had all made, she came across the note that in my rush to open my gift I didn’t see. She read it to me. I remember it saying something like this. 

I don’t know why there are  rubber sharks in all the stores, but I thought it was cute. You enjoy your ocean books so much, I think you'll like him.  I know how much you have always wanted a Barbie too. Enjoy then both.  I love you! Grandma.

Barbie and the Great White taught me lifelong lessons in giving. They taught me about intent, joy and remembrance.

Grandma's intent for giving me these two gifts was pure of heart.  Grandma didn't get out to the movies and rarely watched anything other than the Lawrence Welk show on TV.  She had no clue that people from 7 to 47 were terrified of the ocean and of great white sharks because of the release of Jaws the year before.  She saw that there were "cute" rubber sharks in the stores and knew that I loved the books I had about the ocean. She also knew that I always wanted a Barbie.  She found a lovely one with dark hair - sort of the color of my own, and thought I would like it.  In her quirkiness,  a term of both respect and endearment, she put the two together, one inside the other.  Looking back as I grew older, it made sense.  My grandma was known for giving quirky gifts - our Christmas Eve family Bingo games at her house were legendary.  You never knew what you would get as a prize - it could be a light bulb, a roll of toilet paper, or if you were the one lucky win, the box of Toblerone chocolate.  Barbie and the Great White fit her personality, but also fit the purity of intent in her heart.

I learned lessons in joy. Grandma had spent time with us, interacting with us, watching us, and knowing what we liked.  She, in her Grandma wisdom, knew things that would bring us joy even if we didn't know they could bring us joy.  I loved that Barbie and played with it for the entire next year. Sharky (yes... an original name) was in our house for years.  That big grey razor tooth fish made its way into bathtubs, sinks, and the neighbors pool whenever we'd swim. He was played with, loved, and brought joy.  The shark as a thing ended up bringing great delight, but so did the story.  Grandma knew how to bring me the gift of joy.

That Christmas gift in 1976, Barbie and the Great White, in the history of all my Christmases, is the most remembered gift I have ever received.  Yes, others have come close, but that one will forever be burned in my memory.  I remember where I was when I opened it, the feeling of the rubber shark, the look of the Barbie's hair slightly messed because of my tugging on the wrapping paper.  Every year, I remember the experience, my reaction, my Grandma's note, the joy I got from the gift, and the meaning and heart of giving.

There was a bonus lesson.  When we learn how to give from the heart,  to give in a way that we know will bring the receiver joy, and when we realize that true gifts fill the heart’s desires not the brain’s or egos desires for “stuff”, we have not only grown in giving, but we have learned and grown in the way we receive.  Because when we give in this focus, we learn to receive in it as well.

As you move into this holiday season, remember that true giving lies in the intent, joy and the remembrance that comes from the act of giving, not from the thing that is given.

What is your most remembered gift memory?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your story of the shark and the Barbie - especially the importance of appreciating the heart from which the gift is given!


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