Life Stories: Dad’s Weird Christmas Gifts

Another year, another Christmas without my dad. Next year, it will officially be a decade since he died. Ten Christmases. Back in 1995, when I was ten, I believe dad still lived in Montana. I can’t even remember what I received for Christmas that year. Actually, wait. Now that I think of it, I believe he sent me some Sega Genesis games, but not the ones I asked for.

This would become a recurring theme throughout the rest of his life: buy lots of gifts for loved ones, oftentimes on his own without any help. He’d get gifts that he thought the recipient would like, or that seemed practical. It’s the thought that counts, right? Hell, try telling that to your overweight son when he opens a box on Christmas morning and finds a bright yellow hoodie. As if being called a fat ass wasn’t enough, I’d now be going to school looking like a fucking lemon. No thanks. Now it’s mom’s hoodie.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned to appreciate the thought my dad would put into his sporadic gifts. In the case of that hideous hoodie, my dad was probably thinking something like “I don’t want my son to be cold, so I’m going to send him this heavy jacket”. Or like the time he and mom pitched in together to get me Playstation games I’d asked for: Xenogears, Wild Arms, Resident Evil, the good stuff. Then there was a fourth game! I wonder what it could be!

Oh, it’s Star Wars: Rebel Assault II.

See, now I get it. Dad was like 18 when the original Star Wars flick was released in theaters. It was a cultural phenomenon, and it was here to stay. So, he probably assumed I would think a Star Wars game was the coolest shit this side of Tatooine . I tried to like it, I really did, but it wasn’t my thing. Truth be told, I wouldn’t really come to like a Star Wars game until I played Knights of the Old Republic II as an adult. I wish I had told dad about it.

Another one of his yearly gifts was holiday-specific treats. He’d always send (or give, if he was living in San Diego at that time) one of those Hillshire Farms boxes to my mom. You know the kind, with the sausages, crackers, spicy mustard, and cheese. On a few occasions, he’d get her smoked salmon. For the kids, and I mean all of my cousins, my sisters, and I, he’d get those huge tins of popcorn with three flavors: caramel, cheese, and the shitty butter flavor. They were always a huge hit.

Dad may be gone, but my family has carried on his memory during holiday seasons by continuing to give out those same tins of popcorn as gifts. My cousin Kendall gets me one every year, and it always makes me smile. I’m sure most people would frown or be disappointed by receiving a tin full of $10 popcorn as a gift on Christmas, but every time I receive one of those poorly decorated containers I’m reminded of dad and his thoughtful, warm generosity. Not just during holidays, but all-year round.

“Like my father’s come to pass, 9 long years has gone so fast”- Billie Joe Armstrong, mostly.

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