The bootie

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By Marie Walker
Leetonia, Ohio

Honorable mention

Tears flowed from my eyes while I hung the little red and white stuffed elf. It was Carol’s favorite Christmas ornament.

My 18-year-old daughter had joined the military service. It would be the first Christmas without her.

Carol’s letters arrived from the boot camp and I understood that decorations were not allowed in the barracks. But I knew that in my heart that Carol’s Christmas was made of three-fourths decorations and one-fourth celebration.

However, it was comforting to know she and I had memories of Christmas past. I even chuckled when I remembered how she’d say “No, not that story again, Mom!” when I’d tell her my story of my Christmas doll. How one night my Christmas doll fell out of bed and when I awoke and found her laying on the floor I quickly picked her up and put her close to me.

I sent Carol the usual box of cookies that was allowed and a small red and white fuzzy bootie, no larger than a 3-year-old child’s shoe, filled with candy. The next year Carol, in her jovial way, sent the bootie back with a miniature angel.

As the years went by, we passed the bootie with a small gift back and forth through the mail. Then, on Christmas of 1994, I received the usual box that held the little bootie. But the biggest gift was enclosed. It read:

Dearest Mother,

It is now 12:30 a.m. on Christmas morning and I’m still thinking about what to put into “our” Christmas bootie. For the last couple of weeks I have thought long and hard on what to fill it with.
I could have put a number of things into it, but nothing seemed right. If I was rich I could have filled it with jewelry and gems, stuffed it full of gold coins, and filled it with riches. But even if I was rich and could afford to do those things, some how they didn’t feel right.

This bootie is not made or was not created with riches and gold in mind, but love, tenderness and memories from the heart. So what came to mind was the simplest of things. It was the memories: The heart-felt love of Christmas, past and present.

I remember how much it meant to me when you first sent it to me. I had nothing but memories of Christmas past for that Christmas year. I remember the year I packed it full of goodies and sent it back to you, and vice-versa. It had never been meant to be what is in it, but for how it was packed, with love, tenderness and memories. The cheapest but the most precious gift of all.

And being broke brought the real meaning of this “Christmas bootie” back to me. So simple and ordinary in its structure and meaning that one tends to forget. It is not what’s in it, but what’s put into it.

This year, 1994, I have packed it full of kisses. (I would have liked to put hugs in it too, but like I said, I’m broke.)

The kisses “and hugs” are for all the things that you have done for me over the years as a mother. The basics: You fed me, clothed me, housed me and still are. You gave me “character” (chores) and lots of it. You disciplined me to get me ready for the world. You gave me a tender hand when I needed it and you gave me a disciplined hand when I needed it. All in the name of love and motherhood.

You didn’t fill my life with riches and gold, but filled it with love, tenderness and happy memories. It is for this reason that I fill “our’ bootie with those basic, but also meaningful and precious, gifts.
Love, tenderness and one more year of happy memories of our tradition.

Every kiss you eat is from the heart and the weeks of agonizing over the “perfect” gift to fill the bootie.

Signed,
Your loving lost-but-found “Dolly”

P.S. Pick me up and tuck me back into bed.

Carol now lives with her family in a home next to me. We will continue to pass the bootie as we have since 1981.

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