Every year, without fail, the packages arrived. It might be on Christmas Eve or the day before; it might even be Christmas Day, but they always, always came. They might be in bags or they might be wrapped, but there were usually two, one of which was a fun box of S’mores stuff from Wal-Mart. You know, the box that has a chocolate bar with a package of graham crackers and a small bag of huge marshmallows—all the fixin’s one would need to rev up the oven and indulge in a campfire feast for two, unless you really, really liked S’mores. Then it’s a feast for one. And there would always be at least two adorably cute mugs in that same box, all brightly Christmas colored and themed . . . usually snowmen but occasionally a Santa or reindeer or some other holiday appropriate character.
I always told him it wasn’t necessary. I appreciated being remembered and it was extremely nice of him to go to the trouble and the expense, but I was just grateful for his loyalty and devotion to our work. That was more than enough for me and Christmas presents, as much as I enjoyed S’mores and scarfs with gloves or coffee or whatever the second gift might be, were not required or expected. He could have spent that money on his family instead of me; however, my words fell on deaf ears and the presents continued to come.
But on December 6th, Charlie Baker died. He’d always been in a hurry to finish everything at work. I would have greatly preferred that he not follow that philosophy where his life was concerned. But Death had other ideas and we lost a valued employee and friend. Someone even mentioned they guessed I’d seen my last box of S’mores stuff. I really hadn’t thought anything about it. S’mores or Christmas presents or even Christmas were the last things on my mind at that moment. But I agreed; they were right.
Then one day about a week before Christmas, I walked into my office to find a GIANT Christmas bag beside my chair. And inside that bag was a box of twelve K-cups for coffee (for the twelve days of Christmas, except the manufacturers called it “The 12 Pods of Christmas” ) . . . and a box of S’mores fixin’s with two of the cutest snowman mugs I could imagine. Of course their cuteness was probably amplified by the absence of the giver.
His wife said he’d bought the gifts forever ago, put them in this bag that was about ten times too big, and set them in their living room floor, waiting for the appropriate time to deliver them. Since he couldn’t, she did.
I won’t lie. I may have teared up just a bit when I realized what I had. And I may have cried outright when I got my bag home and slowly unpacked it. I opened the S’mores box, tucked the chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows away for another time, and placed my two snowman mugs on the window sill by the kitchen sink. Now, during the holidays, whenever I wash the dishes or water the cats, I’ll look at those two mugs and think about someone we all loved and we all miss. Every December they’ll come out of the cabinet where they’ll live the other eleven months of the year and occupy their place of honor. They were my first gift of the season . . . and they were my last gift from someone I had known and appreciated for 28 years. As much as I fussed at him for spending his money on me, for once I’m so very thankful that he did.