Intro: It’s only October, but my husband and I just gave each other our Christmas presents–Kindles. We’re planning to take them on an upcoming trip. I’m reminded of a story about a gift I dearly wanted as a kid and a lesson I learned with exceeding slowness.
Every year at Christmas time when I was a child, I’d pore page by page through the Christmas catalogs to decide exactly what I wanted. For years it was the same thing: I wanted a toy cash register made of red metal. If I pressed the levers down, the numbers would pop up and the drawer would slide open. If I ever got any money, that is where I planned to put it.
Year after year, I got other presents: a china bank in the shape of a Canadian paper dollar (in the days before dollar “loonie”coins), a tea set in bright colors, a zippered manicure kit in a blue leather case, pyjamas (now that was a major disappointment).
I always got a stocking to be sure: a Red Delicious apple, an orange, maybe even a pomegranate. Nuts, chocolates, ribbon candy, a bottle of pink fingernail polish.
But no cash register! What was the matter with Santa Claus? What was the matter with my parents and the world in general? How sad was it that I, a goodie-two-shoes little kid, who never gave them a bit of trouble, couldn’t get the one present I longed for with all my heart?
I was in my thirties when I figured it out. Just maybe I had never gotten a toy cash register because I’d never told anyone that I wanted one. How were my parents supposed to guess that a cash register was my heart’s desire? I had assumed that if my parents truly loved me they would “know” what I wanted. I also believed, as a child and as an adult, too, that it would hurt too much to ask for something and maybe not get it.
I was approaching fifty when I shared the cash register story over coffee with a few women friends. We talked a bit about how hard it is-often–to ask for what we want and need. Self-reliance is admirable, but being able to be open enough to let others know our wants and needs can be a good thing too. As I recall, they told me that I was an idiot and it was a wonder I had survived in this world as long as I had.
For my fiftieth birthday, two of those women gave me birthday presents: one Fisher-Price cash register and one Sesame Street cash register. I kept them both for years as a reminder of the real gift I received from them that birthday, the lesson that sometimes in life, if you make your wishes known, you can get what you want. Eventually I passed the toys on to grandchildren. I kept the lesson though.
Oh yes, I learned something else along the way. If I ask but don’t get—I can easily survive that too.
PS I added a page–on the list of pages above–to keep you updated about the Saratoga storytelling open mic. It’s got our schedule for the year. Check it out. For more storytelling events in our area, go to StoryCircle of the Capital District. The link is also on my blogroll on the right.