Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Christmas Story

My Facebook post from Friday:

My morning has been filled with an ACTUAL CHRISTMAS MIRACLE and I'm so excited I can't hardly stand it. I'm bouncing up and down in my chair.

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The story:

A Christmas Story

December 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

A Christmas Miracle is what I promised. Sometimes, I get so excited about the way I think life should work out, I end up forgetting that reality is usually not so kind.  Still, I live behind these rose colored glasses.

My Daddy, whom I love and adore, way back in 1982, received from my Momma, for his 30th birthday, a wooden chess set.  It was beautiful - the pieces were hand carved and polished, the board was made with love - it was a wonderful board that graced the top of our entertainment center for as long as I can remember.  I spent hours as a girl peeking in on my dad and his friends as they hunched over the set, moving the pieces in mysterious ways, so silent and serious.  It seemed a very boring game to me, but the love my Daddy had for that board made it seem like something grown up and important and something I very much wanted to experience with him - so eventually, I learned the game of chess on that board, taught by a very patient father who tried his best to explain to his precocious daughter why it was okay that the King, which was so very important to the game, could only move in the same limited capacity as a Pawn.  (I still don't get it, I'll be honest with you.  The Queen was totally the boss of that game.)  I haven't played chess in years, and Daddy had taken to favoring the less-bulky convenience of downloaded games on his phone, but the last time I played was on that board, and I know Daddy still occasionally pulled out the set to have a game with his buddy Jim.

Daddy's chess board was such a fixture in our home - like the cabinet that holds the CDs, and the dining room table - you may not use it every day, but it was always there. Until one day it wasn't.

The hows and whys of the board's disappearance aren't tales for this story, but the loss, when it was noticed, was heartbreakingly sad, and it deeply hurt my Daddy that it was gone.  I have a ridiculous sentimental side that comes straight from my Papa - small tokens can carry the value of gold and gems if given by the right person, for the right occasion - and I could see in his eyes when he told me his chess set was gone, and I hurt for him.  We tried to find it, but by the time we tracked it to it's last known location, it was gone again.  Forever, it seemed.

The Friday before Christmas, I was in my boss's office, sharing Christmas shopping woes.  I told him how i wasn't finished shopping for Daddy, but all I wanted to get him for Christmas was a chess set to replace his missing one, but you can't replace handcrafted with mass-produced.  Dan cocked his head to the side, then turned to his computer and typed something in - I came around his desk to look, "Are you on Craigslist?"  The first search for "chess set" returned dozens of listings, but he narrowed it to wooden sets and listings with pictures.  The third listing, from Lexington Craigslist, was my Daddy's chess set.

I called the man with the listing, confirmed he still had the board, made an offer, got his address, and told him I'd see him the next morning.  I looked at the listing for another 5 minutes, heart racing.  Could it really be my dad's set?  Yep, it had the wooden box he used to store the pieces.  I recognized the green felt on the bottom of the pieces.  Dan emailed me the link to the listing, which I forwarded to Momma, followed by a phone call, "That's it, isn't it?"  "Nat, I think it is."  I knew it!  I was beside myself with joy - I wanted to leave work that minute and drive to Lexington and have it safe in my hands, then under my tree, ready to be reunited with my Daddy.

All afternoon, all night, all morning Saturday, I had visions of how I'd give Daddy his gift.  Sneak in and set it up under their christmas tree so it's waiting for him Christmas morning, like a gift from Santa?  Each piece wrapped indiviually and the board as the final present?  A video taking him along on our journey to Lexington and back, with the big reveal at the end?  Regardless, I knew it would be perfect, and he would be so thrilled and excited, and this would be the best Christmas ever, for more reasons than just being Geneva's First.

Jimi and I loaded Geneva into the car in the middle of the cold rain Saturday morning, and headed out to pick up our Christmas Miracle.  It was a jovial trip - I was bubbling with excitement, visions of rooks and pawns and knights and queens dancing in my head.  The seller was waiting for us in his driveway when we pulled up, and I got out of the car with the money in my hand.  He brought me the board...

And I knew immediately it wasn't my Daddy's chess set.  While Daddy had for years left the board assembled, ready for game-play, there was no discoloration on the white squares on his board; this board had little round circles where the color of the wood was changed by years of exposure to light or smoke.  The board was nice, just not as nice as my Daddy's.  The box of pieces was smaller, not as nice as Dad's, and the pieces themselves were 2/3 the size of Dad's pieces, and not nearly as finished and polished.

I hated the chess set being offered to me.  I gave the man $100 and put it in my backseat anyhow, and drove away.  I made it to the stop sign at the end of the street before the tidal wave of tears I'd been holding back broke free, and I sobbed and sobbed, heartbroken for my Daddy's loss all over again, and now for my failure to fix it and make everything better.

My day was ruined.  Sweet Jimi saw me deflating fast and tried to perk me up, but I was allowing myself to sink and wallow- how could i have been so foolish, and so wrong?  And does this mean that Daddy's board really is gone forever, with no hope of ever coming back to us?

By the time we got home, my head was clearing from the shock.  That sounds melodramatic, doesn't it?  That's really what it was, though - I was so completely certain we'd found my Dad's board that I was absolutely blindsided by the fact that it wasn't.  I looked at a Craigslist photo and convinced myself of what I saw and allowed not a moment's thought to the idea that I could be mistaken.  Foolish.  Anyhow, by the time we got home that evening, I was more reasonable.  I took out the board and the little wooden box and examined both closely.  I opened the box and held the pieces in my hands - they're hefty for their size, and while the carvings aren't polished, they're quality.  It's a nice chess set.  Anyone who enjoys the game would be proud to have it.

I wrapped it with love, and gave it to Daddy today.  I couldn't stop myself from crying, or for apologizing for it not being "his" - he cried too, though, and replied "it's mine now".

Christmas was full of the most important things, and not a damned one of them was carved of wood.  Perspective, I has it now.

And then I filled up for $2.98 a gallon on the way home.

Christmas Miracle, indeed.

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