It was the Christmas of the Canine. I can’t remember how old I was. I’m going to guess 9 or 10. All I wanted for Christmas was this giant, glossy, expensive book, The Encyclopedia of the Dog. It was all I thought about for months. It contained every dog breed known to man–and even some that probably weren’t known to man. I think I had seen it in a bookstore once and since that moment had not ceased begging my parents for the book. I remember my Mom kept telling me, “Well, I don’t know, Abby. It’s pretty expensive.” (*At least it was then! Amazon is now selling it used for 25 cents. Depressing. It’s only 12 or 13 years old!) It was about all I could think about for the entire fall–holding that heavy hardback book of wonders, book of all of the beautiful dogs I would one day own and train and love…
So Christmas came. Da-Dan (my grandfather) handed out the presents one at a time, like usual, calling out the name of the recipient while we all waited around anxiously for the next present to come to us. I got a set of plastic dog figurines of maybe 30 or 40 breeds. These were exciting for some time, although I was probably too old to be playing with them. I set them out on the coffee table and waited. The presents kept circulating. No Encyclopedia of the Dog yet. I noticed that the pile under the tree was growing thin.
Then Da-Dan announced, “Well, that’s it, folks. Looks like we had another bountiful Christmas.” I blinked. I did not get my book. My eyes started to well up with tears, but I was old enough to understand that it would be selfish and ungrateful to be upset about it, so I rushed into the bathroom. I think I sat in there for a while, trying to compose my little body, trying not to cry in disappointment.
I heard my Dad’s voice calling from the living room. “Oh, Aaaaabby, come here.” It was his teasing voice. I was afraid to come out, afraid that he’d seen me about to cry and would humiliate me in front of the whole family. I wiped my face with the back of my hand and cautiously walked into the living room. Dad was crouched under the tree. “Da-Dan, it looks like you missed one,” he said, pulling a large rectangular package from the back of the tree.
Could it be… I held my breath. He handed me the package and I tore it open, finding the majestic face of a Labrador staring back at me. The Encyclopedia of the Dog! I think I was so happy that I started laughing, hugged them all, but then stopped and said, “That was mean. That was really, really mean.”
Dad just laughed at me. I spent the rest of the day flopped on my stomach in front of the fireplace, carefully thumbing through every page, every breed group, and reading every page. Pure childhood Christmas bliss–although it came at the cost of slowly suspended terror.
So, what’s your story? What was that Christmas present you begged your parents for as a child?