Sunday, December 21, 2014

Memories...a priceless gift!

Christmastime always brings back wonderful memories, 

and one of my most memorable gifts was my Kermit the Frog phone. I still have it today and it's the most dependable phone in the house...cord and all.  But, the story of how I got this phone is the most memorable part.

"As a special Ding Dong tradition, every year during Christmastime, my grandpa would take my sister and me downtown to Water Tower Place to go shopping.  We lived in Chicago, and my grandparents now lived in Indiana.  The tradition went like this: My mom and grandma would stay home and bake Italian Christmas cookies, while my father stayed home and usually put up the Christmas tree for my grandparents.  Grandpa would take my sister and me downtown for a day of fun.  Most often we didn’t even buy anything except lunch. It was just the idea of enjoying our time together.  What a heart-warming memory when just the presence of each other’s company was truly the gift that you looked forward to.

However, one year in particular does stand out.  We planned our usual trip downtown. The difference this year was that I had my eye on a special present.  I grew up loving the character of Kermit the Frog.  Well, this particular year, a cool Kermit the Frog phone came on the market.  Being a novelty also meant that it was very expensive.  I was told by my father, in no uncertain terms, that I was not getting this phone for Christmas.  He also made sure he gave my grandfather this message, making it clear he should not buy the phone for me.  Furthermore, I was told that if I knowingly received the phone for Christmas, I would have to return it.  I accepted this decision because deep down I knew I had some clout.

As we were walking through Water Tower Place that day, I spotted the phone.  My eyes lit up like I saw Santa Claus himself coming down the chimney.  The phone cost $150.00, and I was just a kid. What did I need a phone for?  When my grandfather saw my face his lit up with joy too.  What a memorable moment that grandpa was excited just because I was excited.  He was such a dear.  But he also knew my father.  He looked right at me and told me that if he buys the phone for me he might get into trouble. I agreed.  He then said he’d buy it for me, but there’s a chance that I too might get into trouble.  I agreed.  Then he rationalized that if I could pretend to be surprised when I opened the phone up on Christmas we might have a chance of getting away with it.  I agreed!   I promised him that acting surprised would not be a problem.  So we had our loophole.  My grandpa figured that if he bought the phone “without me knowing” it’s his prerogative as a grandfather, and we couldn’t possibly get into trouble.  (Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, getting into trouble for Grandpa and me was not an uncommon occurrence.)  Again, I promised him I could and would act surprised.

The following couple of weeks lasted a lifetime.  Christmas Day finally came and so did my big show.  I was ready! We were opening presents in our usual manner taking turns and “oohing and ahhing” over each others’ gifts.  When it was finally my turn for the big surprise, I mustered up all of the acting skills I had and pulled off the performance of a lifetime.  I ripped open the huge box and my face lit up like the Christmas Star.    I jumped with excitement acting as if I really couldn’t believe I got my phone.  I truly was excited, and even more so because no one was the wiser.  I remember I had a smile plastered on my face and real tears in my eyes.  I thought for sure Grandpa and I would be found out, but the longer my presentation lasted, the more I realized I was really pulling this off.  The greatest pay-off came when I realized after the whole scene was played out my father didn’t have a clue to my surprise being a wonderfully orchestrated class act. Needless to say, since it was believed I didn’t know about the gift beforehand, I got to keep my phone.  

To demonstrate what a great bond we had, Grandpa and I kept that secret from my father for many, many years.   I was nearly an adult when I finally told my father that I not only knew about the phone ahead of time, but that I was actually with Grandpa at the time of purchase. I figured waiting all those years was a good way to guarantee not getting into trouble for our deceptive ploy, and I was right. I’m sure any frustration that would have come about if our secret was revealed years before was alleviated with the passage of time and the realization of what a wonderful relationship Grandpa and I shared.  I’m in my forties now and I still have that Kermit phone.  Every time I look at it, I get a silly grin on my face remembering what innocent shenanigans Grandpa and I used to pull off.  He was such a kid at heart. 

The Ding Dong Club began as just that: a club.  But as the years passed by it became an integral part of our lives.  It wasn’t the meetings or the outings that were the most important part, but it was the “us” (especially Grandpa and me.)  The fun we had, the talks we shared, the trouble we got into, formed the wonderful memories I still have today.  Grandpa and I certainly followed the old adage, “Growing older is mandatory, but growing up is optional.”  Sure, we all got older, but my sister is the only one of us that grew up.  She became much more mature and serious, and Grandpa and I stayed as we were carefree and young at heart. Because of this, Grandpa and I became much closer as the years went on."

Excerpt from My Hero, My Ding
© 2010 Lisa A. Tortorello - My Hero, My Ding

I hope you are busy making precious memories this Christmas!

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