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  • Writer's pictureDillon

Near, Far, Wherever You Are this Christmas

Joyce Irene Barber was a beautiful, vibrant, funny, and caring woman – and she remained such even as she suffered from faltering health and the throes of loneliness after a painful divorce. We lost her just after Easter 14 years ago. As I think about Christmas, it’s impossible to forget the luminescent glow she brought to the holiday season.

Christmas just hasn’t been the same since she passed. Yes, I’ve changed, grown older and more jaded. I would also add that Christmas just isn’t the same when you employ treat yo’self and retail therapy as frequently as I do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no rush to go about bah humbuging, but I feel like I definitely need a Christmas reset. As I reflect on what I can change and how I want to be a better person, I’m inclined to think of one very special Christmas back in 1998. I had recently seen an edited version of the Titanic, and I don’t know why... but I became enamored with the Heart of the Ocean necklace from the movie. For some strange reason, I needed to get this necklace for my mother. In the months between seeing the movie and Christmas, I saved whatever money I could… but let’s be honest, making money as a five-year old pre Y2K was no easy task. Moreover, I had no real concept of money or what things actually cost - especially if it wasn’t shown on the Price is Right.

The Quest for the Heart of the Ocean

“But can’t we at least check?” I begged my dad as we were getting into the car. My Dad relented and we went back out into the cold and re-entered the store. I was clinging to my little bag of money as we walked up to the jewelry counter. I held my money tightly and puffed out my chest and asked the man behind the counter if they had the Heart of the Ocean necklace. I must have appeared so absurd, but that’s the bravado of childhood.

The man looked down at me, a five year-old with this ridiculous request, and graciously searched for the heart-shaped necklace. He searched the counter and asked whether the necklace with a chocolate brown stone was okay. I was taken back by the temerity to ask if I would be satisfied with anything but that impossibly blue stone, but I demurely informed the man that I was really looking for the necklace with the blue stone and thanked him for his help. After the jewelry counter experience, I scoured every advertisement I could get my hands on to find a place that sold the Heart of the Ocean necklace, and I was disappointed every time. Clearly, I was not expecting to find one that had a real blue diamond, the movie explained that those were pretty rare and valuable. But surely someone, somewhere sold a necklace that looked similar. What was I to do?

I was telling my Grandma Joyce about my quest and she offered to help me out if I would behave – a pretty big ask considering my track record at the time. Looking back, I am beyond touched by her generosity. My grandma was not a woman of significant means, and her offer to help definitely meant that she would have to forgo some of the things she enjoyed, but she knew what it meant for me to give this gift to my mother. I really did try so hard to behave and act nicely for those months, but I definitely did not keep up my end of the bargain. All the same, December 24th came and my grandmother gave me a little golden jewelry box containing the Heart of the Ocean; it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

The anticipation of giving this gift to my mother was almost more than my five-year old self could handle, so I decided to hide the gift in the Christmas tree to remove the temptation of spoiling the surprise - surely this gift would have to be given at the right moment I presumed. We had our dinner and read the nativity story from the second chapter of Luke; then we opened up our Christmas pajamas. I could tell that we were quickly approaching the time to go to bed – this the moment!

“I think that there’s one more present in the tree,” I said with a gigantic, mischievous smile. I sprinted from the couch to the Christmas tree and retrieved that small golden box. With my grandmother there, I presented the box to my mother, who opened it and then her eyes went wide as she opened it up to see the Heart of the Ocean. My mother tried it on, and oh did she look beautiful! She wore that necklace to church on Sundays, and every time she wore it, I felt a glimmer of pride.

This was my first time really giving a gift. Remember, I had little more than the few coins I was able so save from the tooth fairy and from foraging around the house... so not much. That night, my grandmother gave two gifts. One to my mother (transitively) and one to me. I have grown to love giving gifts, but I feel like there is more to my grandmother’s lesson than giving material items. I feel that my grandmother must have intended that I give love more freely, too.

Near, far, wherever you are this Christmas grandma, I hope you know I love you, I miss you and I’m still trying to behave!

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