Toronto Star

Gratitude for gifts that were never given

- LORRAINE SOMMERFELD

An interestin­g thing happened over the holidays. Marc, 16, has been working at one of the big electronic stores. On Dec. 24, I picked him up late at night after an extended shift. He’s been weary coming out most nights; working in a place like this over the holidays is enough to quash the most determined festive state of mind. “You look beat; you okay?” I asked. He exhaled heavily. “Somebody ripped off my Christmas presents,” he said quietly. My eyes widened in amazement. Somebody had stolen from my son? Somebody had caused my lad this grief? My son had bought Christmas presents? “What happened?” “I bought my stuff, and before I could start my shift and get it put away, a customer asked me some questions. I went to find some merchandis­e to answer him, and when I got back, he’d swiped my whole bag and taken off,” he told me wearily. He was clutching a giant gaudy bow, part of the one of the store displays. With a weak grin, he told me it was now my Christmas present.

I wanted to ask him why he’d left the bag out. I wanted to ask why he trusted anyone. I wanted to know if he’d asked for help, or told his supervisor­s. I wanted to make it better.

I made a couple of quiet remarks about how he would one day appreciate learning this lesson at a fairly cheap price, but my insightful­ness was lost on a boy who had done a good thing, and got smacked in the head for his efforts. I opted instead to just shut up. I made it about two more blocks. “Soooooooo. What’d you get me?” I asked him. He smiled, his eyes closed as he rested against the seat.

“That CD you wanted,” he said. He named an artist I’d never heard of. Ever. “Um, what?” “Remember, you picked me up the other night, and there was a song on, and you asked me what it was? I got you that,” he said.

From a few dying notes on the radio of a song he hadn’t known himself, he’d found out what it was. I was impressed. “Wow. Thanks,” I told him. He’d rounded out his list of gifts with movies and music and gadgets thatletmek­nowmysonwa­sindeed becoming a man:

He’d shopped his whole roster from an electronic­s store, and he’d done his shopping on Christmas Eve.

We got in the house, me holding the bow. Jackson, 13, came bounding down the stairs. I started explaining to Brad, The Poor Sod Who Lives With Me, what had happened. Marc was too tired to be incensed, but I was newly invigorate­d by this betrayal. Jackson brushed aside the injustice of the theft, and got to the more urgent matter at hand.

“What’d you get me?” he asked his brother.

“A special mouse for your computer game. It’s got all these extra buttons, so you can play way faster. It just came out,” Marc told him. There was further discussion about the game, which from what I can determine involves dragons and war and swords and much flying around.

“Has it got that button that lets you move sideways?” Jackson asked. “Yeah, that one,” Marc replied. “Wow. Cool. Thanks.” And with that, Jackson went back upstairs, to continue playing with his old mouse.

I packed that big ugly bow up with the rest of the decoration­s yesterday.

I plan on putting it up every year to remind us all that it truly is the thought that counts. Lorraine Sommerfeld appears Mondays in Living and Saturdays in Wheels. Reach her via her website lorraineon­line.ca.

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