Lessons From My Forever Project - Part Two

Category: Thoughts From the Void

You know what I love the most about Christmas? It’s the anticipation. When I lived at home, we made a lot of our gifts. Not all of them because some years the best present just came from somewhere else. Like the Tennesee Walker we’d been a’hankerin for. None of us could have made that horse and he was the best present of the year.

That was 1977 and it was an especially good year. It was a year that my sisters and I got together and made our gift for Dad. We wrapped it in the biggest box we could find in the basement; wrapped it in the prettiest paper we could find in the gunmetal gray wrapping paper cabinet; with all manner of teenie-bopper enthusiasm we plastered it with bows to indicate the over-the-top special-ness of its contents, then we taped a big tag that said DADDY on it and placed it near the tree, it didn’t fit under the tree, about a week before Christmas.

The next week was glorious fun teasing Dad about that huge box, telling him over and over that there was something special in there that he’d never gotten from anyone before. Something that he really, really needed. We assured him that gift would be a total surprise because he surely never thought anyone would, or even could gift something so rare, something so willful.

“Bet you’re curious, aren’t you? Guess away, Dad. Go ahead, you’ll never guess. No, really, but you can try…”

Over the course of that week, he guessed all manner of things that a man his age might want and/or teenies our age might be able to afford but he was always icy shades of cold. Not even close.

Christmas morning came and our great Dad played along like he always did. I think he was enjoying our anticipation as much as we were enjoying his - and our own - all at once - and so he saved that giant, bow-covered, suspiciously light box for last.

Well, almost last, but we didn’t know that then.

Underneath the tree was airy and light, we were all knee-deep in dogs and coffee cups and ripped up wrapping paper and piles of paperback bodice-rippers and romance novels, socks, oranges, jigsaw puzzles and underwear, when he cleared himself a spot and sat down on the floor with his legs spread and that huge box between them. He asked us if there was anything he should know before he opened the box. We assured him there wasn’t. That he would know what to do with the present when he saw it.

He picked off one bow and then the next. We squiggled in our chairs.

He carefully laid the tag to the side. We squirmed to get a better look.

He took out his pocket knife to slit along the edges. “Are you sure there isn’t something I should know?”

We giggled and elbowed each other while he ripped off paper and opened the box to great fanfare.

And now I get to the moment in this story when I have to confess that I don’t remember what happened next and actually, the ending [1] is not in the least bit important to the point of this post. What is important is that delicious feeling of anticipation and how my Forever Project has taught me that it drives me today like it did all those years ago.

Lesson #2: Loose Lips Sink Ships

So, fast forward a hundred years or so and I am all planning and plotting on my first novel. I showed my detailed outline to a friend. He was a good friend and said it looked interesting and he’d love to read it when I was finished. I realized my mistake too late. I had destroyed the Christmas effect. Someone knew what I was up to. That little error in judgment pulled me up short and stopped work for a good nine months.

During that stoppage Christmas rolled around again. This time painted sweatshirts were all the rage. (Yes, I know.) I decided to paint one for each of the ladies in my family. And my Dad, but that’s another story.

Night after night I was up until the wee hours working on my designs, choosing colors, fixing, oops umm, mistakes. If I made a sweatshirt for you that year, you should know that I spent delightful hours considering what you might like, how I could make a design that both fit your personality and was accessible to my limited skill set. I also pondered the things I know about you, the history we have together, the funny things you say. I enjoyed anticipating your reaction to my gift. It was Christmas and Laudlers and you did not know what I was doing. I wanted to make it extra special, to finish on time. I wanted to surprise and please you…

I am an incubator. I need my secrets to keep me working.

[1] I have two absolutely opposite and mutually exclusive memories and don’t know which one is the truth. He either loved the box packed full of *sailboat fuel* we gave him or he was disappointed to find a yawning expanse of emptiness. I suspect he was less thrilled by our inventiveness than we anticipated he would be and probably because we had done too good of a job tickling his own feelings of anticipation, tapping on his dreams. I’d like to say that I learned that important lesson about “too much of a good thing” but I doubt I did, and anyway maybe he loved it - and us - as we bounced squealing off the walls at our own cleverness.