One gift remained under the Christmas tree.
I hadn’t noticed that the box had been pushed into a corner, intentionally set aside as the last to be opened. The significance was lost on me, even after Mom pushed it in my direction.
Christmas always had been special in my parents’ home. They made it that way.
Santa came to the foot of your bed where he left a tall stack of unwrapped gifts. You could wake up at 3 a.m. and start right into the gift excitement. Then under the tree were more wrapped presents from mom and dad. As a child, we would tackle all the presents, toss out the gift wrap, get a face full of chocolate and before dawn take the short drive to my grandparents’ home to do it again.
But by Christmas 1991, the focus was quite different. My kids and my sisters’ children were the center of our universe. I had long ago discovered that gifts given to Dads were much more practical and much less exciting.
So the mystery of this last box was lost on me. My first clue was noticing that the other adults in the room all were looking my way. Then they shushed the kids and as I pulled the bow off the box, the realization hit that this gift was important to everyone.
Ripping the tape away and opening the box, I saw it. Inside the cardboard was a worn, faded Indian head cookie jar.
And I cried.
As long as I could remember, this same cookie jar had set in my parents’ kitchen. From its perch atop the refrigerator, this familiar face stoically had observed every meal, every homework assignment and every board game that crossed that dinner table.
The basement home where I grew up had one way in and one way out. The Indian saw every coming and going from my first day of school to graduation until the day I left in a beige tuxedo to get married. He was there every time family and friends visit and he watched as my wife and I brought new babies to visit their grandparents.
In all that time, the jar never contained a single cookie. I guess we were too poor to have a junk drawer and the Indian head served that purpose. He was a junk jar. If you were searching for an odd-sized screw look there. When you need a rubber band or a deck of 51 playing cards, that’s where you’d find them. Misplaced game pieces, my dad’s spare safety glasses and sometimes important papers like the car registration were kept there.
The cookie jar was empty that Christmas morning. But at my urging, Mom gathered up some of those junk items and they all are inside still, waiting to be remembered and needed.
The monetary value of this cookie jar is insignificant. It is a McCoy design and you can find it pictured in collectible guides. But most of the painted highlights long ago faded with use.
Its value to me is in memories. That Christmas, my parents presented me with a symbol of my childhood.
In addition to the junk inside, that piece of ceramic carries precious memories and warm feelings of security, safety and love.
May this Christmas bring you all the same.
Ben Sheroan is general manager of The LaRue County Herald News.