In the early fifties, my grandfather made his living as a painter, and in the wintertime, it wasn’t an easy way to pay the bills. One year, as Christmas approached, he put off shopping for gifts, waiting for his paycheck on Christmas Eve. Sadly, that paycheck didn’t come that day, and he headed home with no money for gifts or food.
My grandfather never liked being in debt. He has always been the kind of man who pays his creditors first, then buys his groceries, and such. However, on that Christmas Eve night, with two little girls at home, expecting Christmas, his only option was a charge account at the local White’s store. Similar to today’s Western Auto stores, White’s carried auto parts, appliances, lawn and garden supplies, toys, and a variety of other goods.
Grandpa headed for White’s in search of Christmas gifts for his two young daughters, my mother and my aunt Patsy. Mama can’t remember what gift she and her sister received that Christmas, but what makes this particular shopping trip memorable is the gift Grandpa bought for his wife, my Mimi. As he headed toward the front of the store to purchase the Christmas toys he’d selected, he spied an inexpensive box of chocolate covered cherries. This extravagance would be the Christmas gift he presented to his sweetheart, when they both knew there was really no money to spare for their celebration.
My Mimi loved that Christmas gift. I know she did, because every year since that one, Grandpa came home from Christmas shopping with a box of chocolate covered cherries for her. As far back as I can remember, and even before then, no matter how many other gifts there were under the tree, Mimi always accepted the inexpensive box of candy with tears in her eyes. Grandpa only stopped buying them for her when the nursing home care team adjusted her diet to keep her from developing diabetes.
I’m sure Grandpa didn’t know, on that long ago Christmas Eve, what an important part of his family’s Christmas tradition that box of cherries would become; but I’ve watched my own Daddy buy a box for Mama, every Christmas for years. My own husband too, always manages to surprise me with a box in the weeks that lead up to the holidays. That one-dollar box of candy has become a way to say, “I love you” every single year. Grandpa hasn’t bought a box of chocolate covered cherries in several years. But this year, there’s a carefully wrapped box of them under the tree for him. It’s my way of saying “I love you, too.”