Sunday, December 20, 2015

Storytellers Christmas: The BIG Box

Who hasn't experienced the pangs of jealousy on Christmas morning as a sibling opens a particularly attractive present? I remember those feelings so well as I watched my sister open her usually feminine and pink gifts while I seemed to get only the functional blue ones! And I remember the year I got the pink flowered robe and she got the blue striped one--I am pretty sure Santa mixed them up! And her robe lasted years after mine was tossed in the ragbag, a testament to the way the two of us treated our belongings. 

Today author, poet and storyteller Joan Leotta of North Carolina brings us a tale of disappointment and learning, as she remembers her own growing-up pains on Christmas when she was an eight-year-old child. 

The BIG Box
previously published by Sasee Magazine on Dec 1, 2014
By Joan Leotta

By age eight, I already had learned one of life’s hard truths. Christmas gifts for little brothers come in BIG boxes. Big sisters receive only medium and small boxes whether from Santa or Mom and Dad. To be honest, I never really suffered in the gift category. There was abundance and well, I loved the puppets, crayons, cooking sets, books, and mountains of stuffed animals that I received. I had no interest in the fire engines, ride-on toys and forts revealed when my little brother’s BIG boxes were opened.

I admit that silly though it may seem, when I spied the HUGE boxes under the tree for my brother was the nagging suspicion that a bigger box equaled more love. The old maxim that good things come in small packages .did not ring true for me.

I thought about putting a new bicycle on my list, just so I could qualify for a big box, despite the fact that my bike was just fine. I was the same height I had been the year before—almost. I didn't. On Christmas Eve, all of my aunts, uncles and cousins met for dinner at my grandmother’s house as usual. We opened gifts from each other and laughed a lot. After clean up, my family spent the night.

Despite staying up very late on Christmas Eve, I awakened before dawn, put on slippers and robe and crept downstairs. The Christmas tree lights were on and under it were our stockings and boxes, "from Santa."  There were many, many boxes, some big, some small—and one GREAT BIG ENORMOUS Box. I sighed.

Quietly, I perused the pile for items with my name attached. I piled my gifts by my stocking and sat down next to them to wait for my parents and Grandma to come downstairs. I opened the copy of The Black Stallion my Aunt Claudia had given me the night before. I hoped my "Santa" packages would contain a Magic Bake oven, and a new diary with a lock along with a pen. I could see that my stocking was full of candy. That made me smile. I took a candy cane cookie from a plate by the tree, arranged my gaily wrapped boxes spread around me, and began to munch on a cookie and read my book while I waited.

As I read, I heard my brother, Mom and Dad pad down the stairs. Grandma came down a minute later. My brother and I dumped out our stockings. Mine had a bracelet, peppermints and chocolate Dutch shoes! Mom said I could eat one, or even a pair of the chocolate shoes, right away since, "After all, what's a little chocolate on Christmas morning?"

Grandma brought in a tray with coffee for the adults, milk for my brother and me and a plate of sweet rolls. Mom helped my brother open his boxes. Dad was ready with some tools to put together my brother's new ride-on toy. I exclaimed happily over my Magic Baking oven and diary. Santa had been good to me.

Grandma and Mom began to clean up the wrapping paper. Then Mom noticed—the BIGGEST box was still wrapped.

"Whose is this?" she asked.

I looked up. "Mom, you’d better help little brother open that one too."

Mom stood up, read the tag and looked at me. "Why, don’t you think you can open it yourself?"

"Me? It's for me?"

I walked over to the box. It was as high as I was tall, definitely the BIGGEST box under the tree this year and possible, ever! And my name was clearly printed on the tag: "Joanie." Santa and all of his helpers clearly had recognized my need for a BIG BOX. I hesitated before opening it. The box. The box was a present in and of itself.

My Mother urged me on. "Open it, dear."

So, I turned the box on its side and began to rip the paper. My hands were trembling as I tugged at the box flaps that opened to reveal a sea of shredded paper. I reached in and tossed out the paper in fistfuls. Deep down in the paper nest lay a large toy lion—silky and soft-- with a golden mane. The imprisoned lion was large but not huge. The box was and filling were about three times his size. I released him from this cardboard incarceration and hugged him tight. A moment later, I christened this amazing creature, "Goldie" and he promptly became the king of my stuffed animal jungle.

It's been a long time since the biggest box under the tree was the one I wanted. After all, jewelry comes in small boxes. But I've never forgotten the real gift that Christmas, learning that often when we think no one notices us, that no one is aware of our inner desires for a BIG box or whatever else, someone often does. As a parent, I've tried to always put this lesson into practice, carefully observing my dear daughter so Santa and  I will know how to fulfill her hidden wish, no matter what it is.

About Joan Leotta: 

On her blog, Joan says: "For as long as I can remember I have been a writer and a performer. The joy of doing what I love as a profession came to be when in 1982 I left my job at the Department of Labor to stay home with my children. At home with them I began my own business as a writer for local papers in Washington, DC , magazines, and more.

After taking Jennie and Joe to see a storytelling show at Wolf Trap I realized I wanted to do that too, so I took a course at the Kennedy Center, read all I could about story performance, joined the local and national professional groups, watched, told tales and learned. After volunteering as a teller, my son’s preschool hired me to tell and so I began my dual career of writing and telling. Each facet is still equally important to me.

In each side of my creativity I seek to serve an audience, produce and present material respectfully, entertain and edify. It is my sincere hope that my performance, whether on stage or on paper, blesses you, my audience."

Contact Joan at: 
Joan Leotta
Author, Story Performer

“Encouraging words through Pen and Performance”
Giulia Goes to WarLetters from KoreaA Bowl of RiceSecrets of the Heart.
Simply a Smile--collection of Short Stories
WHOOSH! Picture book all are available on Amazon in print and e-format


Mac n' Janet said...

Great story, I'm afraid that I too suffered from big box envy, but in retrospect the gift I most remember was that of a book, Heidi.

Susan Anderson said...

I really enjoyed this little story, and I can also recall wanting a big box under the tree. Love the notion that these parents saw and understood their daughter.

Merry Christmas!


PS. I've got a little story poem on my blog if you'd like to read it. Have a wonderful holiday with your family.

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