His Christmas lists have always been precise, no nonsense and to the point. He, the youngest of my three sons and the smallest (and some would say the toughest, but I would add only when he had to be) had to put up with enough nonsense in all parts of life and didn’t want to deal with hand-me-downs and think-you-needs on Christmas morning.
So he handed in his lists by the Dec. 1 request date and did what he could to clinch the necessary follow-through. When as a sixth-grader he wanted Doc Martens, he volunteered to go with me on a shopping trip to make sure I got the right size and style boots – and that I didn’t try to “hook him up” with a knockoff brand. When we found exactly what he wanted, he told the clerk we’d take them, and that he would wear them out of the store, thank you very much.
“What will I put under the tree?” I asked. “This is it, you know.”
“Wrap the box,” he said in an exasperated but logical tone. “I’ll understand.”
Besides, he reasoned, Santa Claus always brings him socks and a box of chocolate-covered cherries.
The next year he asked for the routine to be repeated, just with the next size up on the Doc Martens.
We moved to Brownwood just before he started his ninth-grade year in school, and the Christmas list that year included a list of cds of groups I’d never heard of, and music (thanks to ear phones) I could be spared from. That was OK. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend shopping.
Maybe you’ve heard the story – I found out later most of the Brownwood High School crowd at the time had – and I included it in a column back then. I went to Hasting’s and was greeted by the boys’ friend who happened to be a clerk at the store. Jakob looked at the list, and in about 10 minutes had the small stack of CDs collected for me.
I checked the titles and/or groups against the handwritten list, and said, “Thanks, Jakob. That’s everything but the Mechanical Pencil CD. Do y’all have that one?”
“Well (ahem) Mrs. Fulton,” Jakob said. “Mechanical pencils are not a CD. They’re kind of like ball-point pens, but they have pencil leds you can roll out.”
“Got it,” I said, and headed to Wal-Mart where I could pick up (for Santa) the pencils, the socks and chocolate-covered cherries.
Last year, my son’s 21st Christmas, he was on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in Iraq. His list was short – though not written anywhere or repeated out loud.
He wanted to be home. And the care packages, the yo-yo and magnet sculpture, pound of Starbuck’s coffee and DVD of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were nice, but they weren’t home. Even the Santa tradition was altered. Marines’ socks are military issue and chocolate of any kind is discouraged for overseas mailing.
“Next Christmas,” we promised over the phone, “you’ll be home, and that’s all any of us really want.”
The other night, pretty late, he called. OK, he was returning my several insistent calls, letting him know the car insurance was due, and we needed to make arrangements.
Work’s been slow, he complained, but school was out for the semester, and he’d done “OK” grade-wise. He’d registered for the spring semester. Life was generally all right.
“I don’t have your list, yet,” I said. “What’s up with that?”
“I don’t have a list,” he said. “All I want is to be home and you to make the coffee and us all to have dinner together; maybe some socks, a box of chocolate-covered cherries.
“Oh yeah, the Mechanical Pencil CD. If you can find it.”
He asked me if there was anything I wanted, and I said that there wasn’t a thing.
I have more than my share, I figure. And then some.
Candace Cooksey Fulton’s column is in the Brownwood Bulletin on Sundays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.