From: Dad

“Wait. There’s one more present.”

Growing up, there was always one more present under our tree at Christmas.  It sat towards the back of the tree at the wall our decorated Douglas fir butted up against.  It was an inconspicuous package, never very big, or wrapped in gaudy paper or topped with a comically large bow.  In fact, it wasn’t wrapped very well at all. It had an inordinate amount of Scotch tape holding the paper on the box and had a festive tag stuck off center on the flattest side.

To: Christa

From: Dad

My father, every year, had done the impossible, snuck a present past my mother and under our tree.  While his name was written (in my mom’s handwriting) on all of our presents, this lone gift, had his wrapping hallmark on it and his handwriting on the tag.  The present was for my sister from our dad. Not ‘Mom and Dad’, just, ‘From: Dad’.

It was a present my father had put thought in to, bought, and wrapped for his little girl.  Now my father did not shop. Everything he needed in life he apparently received as a kid, in the Boy Scouts, or was handed down to him from my grandfathers.  Anything he thought worthwhile, he could fit into a paper grocery bag (this included his clothing). So while the gifts themselves were insignificant, knowing the man who only needed, literally, the clothes on his back would do something like this, is what truly mattered. Despite any stresses that had occurred during the year, no matter how little money we may have had, there would always be a present waiting for my sister under our tree.  And when my father became a father-in-law, there were two presents waiting under the tree with the same off center tag marked From: Dad.

It was a gesture I couldn’t grasp as a child (admittedly it ticked me off my sister got one more thing than I had gotten).  My perception didn’t grow as I did.  As I got older, I simply passed it off as something women expected to receive, like flowers on Valentine’s Day (I told you I didn’t get any more perceptive).

What I failed to see, until I had daughters of my own, was the last present From: Dad, was something only a dad with a daughter could understand.  My relationship with my father was strong, loving, and one of total admiration on my end.  I could feel the pride my dad had for me on a daily basis. I knew he loved me with all that he had.  I know he would do anything in his power to protect me. What I didn’t know was there was something special about his little girl. Something I don’t think he or my sister could exactly explain either. He never played favorites (no matter what my sister tries to tell you) and never made this feeling known except during one day of the year.

This is why, every Christmas, there was a gift sitting by itself at the back of the Christmas tree.  Why, every Christmas, my sister opened this lone gift.  Why, every Christmas, my dad waited for all the other presents to be opened before he made sure to let us know there had been one gift left under the tree.  His little girl needed to know, the most important man in her life regarded her as the most important girl in his life.

I have taken my cue from my dad (like always) and from being a father of two girls. Every year I have had a present waiting for my daughters after all else has been shredded open.  Like my dad, it was never about what was in the box, only that there was a box to open (which would explain the mini-ping pong table last year).  The present is more than just another toy, necklace, or another time they hear me say ‘I love you’. The present, in its own way, lets my kids know they are the most important two people in my life.  Even as young as they are, I think they are beginning to understand why I do it, even if neither they nor I can exactly explain it. Their eyes and their smiles do all the explaining I need.

This year has been different though.  I was let go from a 2 jobs in the course of 11 months due to “corporate budget restructuring”.  Thankfully I have found a new job (Turbo Tax ought to be fun to do next year) but my wife and I have had to sacrifice, cut, and tighten up our gift buying budget (ironically, not unlike a corporate budget restructuring plan might do).

But there are two presents I will not sacrifice or cut. Presents that will never be cut so long as someone calls me ‘Daddy’.

Each present will sit toward the back of the Christmas tree where it butts up against the wall.  The presents will not be wrapped well and will be held together by a grotesque amount of Scotch tape.  The presents will have festive name tags, which will be slightly off center on the flattest side and they will simply read, From: Dad.

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12 responses to “From: Dad

  1. Once again, great job finding a simple, overlooked, important piece of the puzzle and using it to teach. I do though, miss and look forward to the Founding Father tie-ins. It’s what drove me to the site originally. My perception is that i expect it, and i personally enjoy it in large doses. :>

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  2. That could be one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Your girls are lucky to have a dad like you.

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  3. Why, oh why, do you have to make me cry. As a daughter, I get it. You have two lucky little girls.
    Merry Christmas, my friend.

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  4. LOVE this story and love your tradition Jimmy!

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  5. I’m sorry it took so long for me to read this post because it was beautiful. I have a son and a daughter and therefore, reading this was pretty emotional and I could totally relate. Getting to know you as I have over the past while on Twitter helped make the post even a little more special.

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  6. As a mother of two boys with a baby girl on the way, this post made me tear up. I didn’t have this kind of relationship with my dad, but I can see how important and necessary it would have been. I hope my own husband follows in your footsteps. I suspect he will, in his own way.

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    • We all have our own “things” we’ll do. I never knew what that might be until my kids were born and I found myself relying on my dad more than I ever thought I would. I’m sure your husband will do his own thing that will make no sense and all the sense in the world to just him and his kids. We all do. 😉

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