Christmas is only a few days away, and I’ve been a busy flannel-clad elf buying presents for the kids.
Which got me thinking about my best Christmas gift ever.
When my brother and I got older, like in our 20s, my dad developed a holiday tradition of going out shopping solo on Christmas Eve to buy us each a bonus gift or two. The gifts had a definite masculine feel to them. I can remember getting a pair of jumper cables one year and a portable CD player another. My brother ended up with a variety of tools and a giant Mag Lite one time.
I always looked forward to these Dad gifts as they were a stark contrast to the carefully selected presents that had been purchased weeks and even months before by my mother.
I liked the fact that my dad spontaneously ran out hours before Christmas officially began and picked up random gifts. Whatever was left or on final clearance. Items that he thought we needed or would like. “I thought you could use this,” he would say.
One year, Dad handed me a large square box. It was really heavy. He couldn’t wait for me to open it up.
Inside was a black handled bag with blue, white and purple stripes. And inside that bag was a 14-pound shiny blue undrilled bowling ball.
I squealed with delight.
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, that last line might have given you pause.
Really? Middle-age butch squealed? With delight?
But a freakin’ bowling ball? That was cause for some uncharacteristic whoops and fist pumps.
Dad explained that he had gotten me a 14-pound ball because that’s what professional lady bowlers use. (It sounds like a term Tina Fey or Amy Poehler would use. “Lady bowlers.”)
Now, Middle-age butch is no bowling pro, that’s for sure. But being a butch lesbian, I know my way around a bowling alley.
The bowling ball wasn’t my ticket to a career as a professional bowler. I didn’t up and quit my job and sign on with the Professional Bowlers Association. There was no pro bowling tour in my future. (Although I once bowled a 256 game in college.)
It wasn’t even that the gift was extravagant. The ball is a basic Brunswick that probably cost about $40 tops, bag included, back in the day.
I loved the gift because it represented my dad recognizing a part of me that I had taken to hiding in those days. The tomboy. The jock. The bruiser. The woman who preferred bowling balls and flannel shirts and power tools to candles and cookware and cashmere sweaters.
It was the butch in me that was being acknowledged, even though that part of me had yet to be named or defined or fleshed out. That wouldn’t happen for a decade or so.
Funny thing is I never did get the bowling ball drilled. I never got around to it. Besides, a 14-pound ball is a tad too heavy, even for this strapping butch. I usually bowl with a 12-pound ball.
Sometimes I think that I never got the ball drilled because I didn’t want to change or alter my dad’s gift in any way. It was perfect just the way that it was.
Flip forward 20 years, and the bowling ball now sits in its bag in our third-floor storage room. I move it around from house to house. A heavy sphere that has no practical purpose.
But profound meaning that exceeds its 14 pounds of perfect roundness.
How about you? What’s the best gift — Christmas or otherwise — that you ever got?