Off in the distance the old record player is stacked with the sounds of the very best of days gone by. One by one the lp’s drop, skid into place, and the sounds of Christmas fill the room.
Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald take turns serenading the old man as he opens the box marked “Christmas.”
“It’s not the same, but it is the best it can be considering.”
“Considering what?” I ask.
“Considering the fact that my love is not with me,” he says quietly.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas” he sings above the scratchy sounds of Perry Como.
If records are well before your time you would not appreciate this. But there are many who believe the purest sounds come from a 33 1/3 lp even with the scratches. You learn to tune them out.
He pulls the box a little closer, then resting his hands on it for a moment, almost like the laying on of hands at a prayer meeting, he pauses, then unties the string.
It appears that the string he used, like his dreams, is old, a little frayed and unraveled, but still serving a greater purpose.
Lifting the lid, he stops once more and gazes into the box.
“Ah, Christmas!” He says.
Like a surgeon, he places his hands gently, slowly into the box before him and carefully removes the contents placing it on the table.
Whatever this treasure may be, it is wrapped in plain brown paper.
Moving it side to side, he pulls and tugs until it is revealed.
“This, this is Christmas,” he says.
Then lifting it up slightly above his head he looks underneath as if searching for something.
It is a classic old mantel clock.
“Oh, my friend that is beautiful!” I said.
He doesn’t answer me.
He sat there lost in a place and time perhaps when you and I did not even exist. He held the clock, no embraced it like he was holding the most precious thing on earth.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I love this clock. It means the world to me,” he said.
“I can tell,” I reply. He smiles and glances back at me.
“This is Christmas,” he whispers.
“May I ask why? Why do you see it as Christmas?” He then went on to explain.
His wife had been very ill for some time. In the spring of that year she could no longer walk.
By fall, her interest in things around her dimmed. Then with the approach of Christmas she seemed to rise above it all. Her husband thought that this was a sure sign that she would recover.
Just before Christmas she told him to go to the local store. He was to ask for the “Christmas Box” with her name on it. She made him promise not to open it nor ask what was inside.
He did and as requested he returned with the box in hand.
“Place it under the bed,” she asked of him.
It was on that Christmas Eve that she presented him with the box. Now weakened from the cold dampness and the return of her symptoms, she could hardly make it through the night.
“Open it,” she told him.
He untied the string, unwrapped the contents and read the small card inside.
“This is a symbol of my love for you…forever until the end of time.”
She reached under the clock and removed a small key. Opening the front glass covering the face of the clock, she took the key and began to wind it. With all her strength she could only manage to turn the key a few times.
She carefully closed the door and laid her head on his shoulder.
“We fell asleep that way,” he said to me.
The next morning, Christmas day, she was gone.
“With all her strength she could not manage to wind the clock completely. It stopped just minutes short of midnight on Christmas day,” he said.
Then turning toward where I was standing he said, “She loved me until the end of time, her time. I have never wound that clock again.
It holds Christmas, our last Christmas inside.”
We sat together until the last record dropped.
How appropriate it was.
“I’m dreamin’ tonight of a place I love,
Even more then I usually do
And although I know it’s a long road back
I promise you. I’ll be home for Christmas …”
May the most valuable gift you receive this Christmas be found not in a box, but in the hearts of those you love… “until the end of time.”