one christmas sticks out in my head. it was, i think, 1983, during the days when our entire family on our dad's side would get together at our aunt greta's and uncle boomer's house in falls church, va. it was non-negotiable. no one ever said, "you know, i really don't feel like it this year. let's just stay home." we never missed it. and i'm sure for my folks it wasn't the easiest task prying the gifts out of our greedy, maple-syrupy hands, getting our act together and hitting the road for an hour and a half drive (often in the snow, those days). but once we got there all the kids would high tail it into the basement for some rough-housing, sparing us the boring grown-up conversations. that is, of course, until it was time to eat and play charades, the latter always involving MASSIVE amounts of cheating from the men in the lahr family...there was for SURE army crawling into the ladies area to eavesdrop on charade ideas thus resulting in the men guessing the charade in one word or less.
each year at thanksgiving we would draw names for the exchanging of christmas gifts. this was a brilliant idea. just when the soul-crushing depression hits when you think there are no more gifts to open, you are hit with a lightning bolt of pure joy when you remember that there, is in fact, ONE MORE PRESENT!!
so this particular year, my name was drawn by my infamous uncle dick. he was my dad's older brother. he was a tornado of a human, as i remember. he was the guy who would show up at our house at 3 in the morning banging pots and pans together to announce his arrival. he was an amazing cook; making duck a l'orange for my mom and dad. the image of him playing air saxaphone with his pants halfway off his butt always sticks with me. that sounds weird but it was funny. always funny. so when i found out that he had drawn my name, i was cautiously optimistic. maybe he had somehow talked to my mom and dad in preparation for this event! maybe he knows that all i ever want are dolls! dolls dolls dolls! ok, or yeah, i mean i'd TAKE a stuffed animal. it's not like i'd be RUDE or anything. or maybe he found out i loved esprit clothes! finally, it was my turn to receive. it was a small box. ok, ok that's good! maybe it's a bracelet or necklace or jewelry of any kind! better yet, maybe it's a miniature! (i was obsessed with mini stuff) (still am). so i open it and it's a...wait for it...
yep. not even a kitchy girly one. just a small red swiss army knife. i mean, he might as well have gotten me a book on the history of math. pretty much the worst present for 9 year old molly. ever. of course everyone thought it was hilarious and started laughing so i, of course, laughed too, trying to pretend like he didn't just RUIN my bonus christmas and thanked him with a hug.
looking back, i realize that was a pretty brilliant move and totally in character for uncle dick. sadly, he is not with us anymore. he died shortly after that christmas and i often wish i could tell him that story from my perspective and laugh with him about it.
that christmas was a great time in life. pre-divorce, care-free, and lots and lots of love and laughter. man, i've been blessed and i love my family.