Christmas morning, 1975
His hair still damp from a shower and just a bath towel wrapped around his waist for attire, John Gage opened his bedroom closet to get out a clean collared shirt and denim jeans. He’d been invited over to celebrate the holiday with his partner Roy DeSoto and Roy’s family.
As he removed the clothing still on hangers, he glanced up at an open shoe box in the corner of a shelf over the rod that ran horizontal from wall to wall. Johnny stepped out and laid the shirt and pants on his bed, then returned to the closet and reached up for the box. He took it down and carried it out where he sat on the bed, the box on his on his terrycloth covered lap.
He took a quick glance at the old Christmas cards in view. He hadn’t bothered to go through the assortment since bringing the box home after his mother passed away. In fact, it was only because of his aunt’s insistence that he took it to begin with.
Johnny lifted one of the cards and studied the picture of the manger scene with gold glitter sprinkled throughout.
“I remember this one. . .”
He glanced back down and noticed another familiar card, then another.
“Hey, this is one I made for her when I was in first grade. . .”
Suddenly a not-often-sentimental John Gage found himself sorting through the contents of the box, wishing he’d taken the time to do it sooner.
A crooked grin spread across his face when he came to a Christmas card that was given to him as a child. The picture on the front was of Santa with some animals out in a forest. There was a fox tucked in one arm, a polar bear on his left, a wolf, deer and two rabbits looking up at the man in the red suit. Snowflakes fell all around them as they stood in the white wintry weather. It was a card Johnny’s grandparents had given him when he was eight years old.
Man, I remember they used to give me a brand new dollar in a card each year. . .
He thought back to the small treasures he’d bought with his dollar after each Christmas. It seemed like such a huge amount to him at the time.
“I wonder how much dough grandparents are out for these days? Can’t buy much for a buck anymore. . .”
He opened the card to read the sentiment inside and was surprised to see a crisp new one dollar bill fall out and into the box. Johnny quickly picked it up with a free hand, and glanced at the date.
The paramedic furrowed his brow as he tried to recall how in the world he’d gone without spending the money. Usually he was broke again within two days. Then it came back to him. Christmas of 1955 was the time he thought he’d lost the special dollar and was afraid to tell anyone. ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’, his parents would often say, and he sure hadn’t wanted a lecture about being careless with it.
But Mom must’ve stuck my card away with all theirs before I got my money out.
A small smile played on his lips. He wondered what his mother would say if she knew what had happened. He could almost hear her laughing at her own over-efficiency.
Johnny held the dollar out as he once again thought about the value. Sure, it would save him an extra buck out of his next paycheck. But it would only be worth a couple of gallons of gas or two loaves of bread with some change left over. However, if he kept it. . .
He tucked it back inside the card and returned both items to the box for safe keeping. Left where it was, the dollar’s worth was priceless.
This was inspired recently when my daughter and I found money in a card a great aunt had given her last year. I guess I put away her card too quick. :o)
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