So many memories flash and dance across my mind when thinking of past Christmases and Decembers: my mother’s homemade sugar cookies and the Sears Wish Book, lavishing silver tinsel around the tree and waking up my older siblings at the first sign of light on Christmas morning. But I would have to say the one Christmastime memory that “takes the yule cake” as far as being in the forefront of my mind, would be the year that I was almost smashed to death in the sake of love!
To be quite honest, it was not really love’s fault at all. It would actually have been pride’s fault or maybe a case of one-upmanship? Regardless of the almost cause of my almost death, it can be stated with complete certainty that it was hunger that saved my life that Christmas Eve in 2003.
I was 26 years old and I had just left teaching that spring before and was trying on being a Realtor. While I worked to grow my business, I was back at waiting tables at the swanky sushi restaurant in Hyde Park. The holidays bring in good money for tipped workers but the shifts can be brutal. Sure enough, I was scheduled to work Christmas Eve. I was in a predicament however in that I still needed to buy a gift for my boyfriend. And this was a big deal because that boyfriend was about to become my fiancé
This guy (we’ll call him Ben) and I had talked about marriage casually before. He would joke that it really wasn’t fair that “the girl” got a nice shiny ring whereas “the guy” didn’t get anything when proposals happen. Ben would continue this line of reasoning and persuasion and leave me hints in the form of gifts that he wanted circled in catalogs. I wasn’t sure if I should take him seriously though until one day when he was not home, I answered the phone to receive a message from a jewelry shop that “the ring was ready!”
So, I knew, but he did not know I knew and now I needed something fast to give him because I wanted to be the one delivering the big surprise! And you bet, it was definitely going to be big! One of the items that he had hinted at was a ridiculously big rear-projection television. He probably was kidding on this one as it was big and not cheap. But – I had been working a lot that December and I had funds!
Now I don’t know if you have gone shopping the day before Christmas before – at an electronics store – but it can downright chaotic! But off I went to the Tri-County shopping mecca and I was very confident because I was driving my new big SUV (perfect for a successful Realtor to be – and perfect to fit in a big TV). When I got to the store I was in luck, not one, but two former students of mine came bouncing right on over to help me right away (which was super great because remember, I am trying to do this before my work shift started). Ben had circled a 42” screen sized one of these monsters. But oh no! I was going to show him! I pointed to the 47” one and said “I’ll take that one!”
Here is where things started to go wrong. I pulled up my SUV but then realized that I had not taken into consideration the size of the box that this great beast came in. The former students looked very worried and apologetic. However, lucky again, I had a connection to a pick-up truck! So, I called up Ben’s dad (my future father-in-law – although he didn’t know it yet!) and asked him to bring up the truck right quick. He, excited to now be privy to my great scheme and the impeding engagement, did just that.
When he got to the store, the workers helped to load up the box. This box was taller than myself and who knows how much it weighed? Ben was going to freak out for sure. A lady sitting on a bench nearby on her break was watching us with a sideways glance. “You best tie it down,” she said. My future father-in-law grinned dismissively. The box was serious so big and heavy and was going nowhere. The plan was that I would follow the truck back to his house and help him unload it and we would store the TV in his garage where it would be all ready as a Christmas surprise come morning when we would go over there for breakfast.
It was a good plan, but I was running out of time before having to go to work and was getting hungry. So instead of following him close behind, I took a detour to a nearby Wendy’s. I ate my late lunch in the car on the way to Ben’s parents’ house in Mount Lookout but was surprised to not find my future father-in-law there with his truck and Ben’s giant TV. I went inside to ask his mother where Bill (Ben’s dad) was and was immediately struck by the worried look on her face.
She sat me down and proceeded to tell me that Bill had to go back to the electronics store to get a new TV.
Bill would tell me later about how while driving south on I-75, he felt a shaking in the truck bed and then, like magic, the whole box just rose right up. It rose right up and flew up into the air only to come right back down with a great smash. The great box still being mighty then rolled top over bottom again and again until it ended with another great smash into the medium where it lay there a heap of cardboard and glass, and whatever else a giant 47” rear-projection TV is made with.
There are many lessons here folks! Be careful what you wish for?! Don’t give the jewelry store your landline phone number?! Keep your pride in check?! Don’t wait until the last minute to shop?! Maybe most importantly though: listen to wise ladies sitting on benches when they tell you to tie it down?!
I am so very thankful that I did not follow his truck that day. It was super fortunate that no one was directly behind him when the TV smashed. Bill and I were very shaken up that day and my mood was still sour when later, after work, Ben brought out a little box. “I don’t want this to be a cliché, done on Christmas thing. So here. Will you?”
Now I knew that Ben was not going to go down in history as one of the great romantics of our time, but it was good enough. He picked out the ring and I love it and the rest is history.
Happy Holidays my Heritage Folks! Enjoy the magic of the season, but make sure to take extra care too!