My Favorite Christmas Present


Not much makes me want to be a kid again, but seeing these on Christmas day did. They’re beauties. They have thick, pink wheels, a soft, cushiony inside, and a large rubber stopper at the front that will work nicely to come to quick, sharp stops when there is something interesting to stop for. Watching my daughter learn to skate on them was a fun way to spend a Christmas morning. She started in our arms, then we were holding her hands, a while later we were walking beside her, and by the end of the day she was skating. She was unsteady, but even when she fell, she was doing it the right way. She was bracing herself and falling at angles that seemed unlikely to injure her.

Lately, she has been assessing all of her interests. She’s been writing them down in notebooks, putting them into lists, thinking about them in her bedroom, and then emerging asking a lot of questions. She’s trying to figure out what she wants to do for a living, and she’s trying to figure out how to turn the things she loves into money. I guess it starts early. She seems fairly serious about it.

She knows she loves shopping at Target. She’d somehow like to turn that into some cash. She likes the idea of being a teacher. She wants to be the one to stuff the folders, give the directions, assign the homework and grade the papers. She really wants to be a school librarian. I’m not much good at inspiration when it comes to mothering. I seem to try harder at teaching common sense. I’m pragmatic, and I’m teaching my kids to be it, too. And so, on the last one, I went ahead and said it: don’t get your heart set on being a school librarian. That job won’t exist by the time you are old enough to work. The talent it takes to do the job will be applied in some other format with some other formula, but it won’t exist as it does today.

I know a little bit about jobs not existing, and I know what it feels like to get a gift for Christmas that gets you thinking about your future, and makes you wish it were here already.

My favorite Christmas present—maybe one of the only ones I remember in vivid detail—was my typewriter. It was red plastic, and it worked just like an adult typewriter, with a ribbon and everything. Once I learned how to load the ribbon—a skill that I thought I would be using for the rest of my life—I  was off and typing. I was writing stories and I was chronicling my life. Boy, did I have concerns back then that needed to be written about. With many brothers and sisters, I had a very tough time competing for the bathroom. I had trouble getting my voice heard in the house, and I had challenges getting others to respect my privacy. As a mother of triplets, I have all those same issues today, and I am still writing about them.

I loved that typewriter, and loved writing about almost everything. Within ten years, I was off to college to get my journalism degree. I wanted to work for a newspaper more than almost anything. Then the pragmatism came along, and I realized to start off with, and maybe for a long time, I wasn’t going to make much money. I was going to write about things I didn’t necessarily care about in order to eventually write about the things I did care about. A few years out of college, I left full-time writing for a more lucrative job, which I enjoyed for many years, but it wasn’t close to what I’d envisioned when I loaded that first spool of ribbon. Today, newspapers jobs are few and far between, so there’s no going back.

I still think about that typewriter, and I still love writing. I’m grateful for people who read things I write, and I’m grateful for my parents for wrapping up that typewriter for me to find on Christmas morning so I could dream about the future with it—even if that future didn’t turn out exactly as I imagined it would that morning.

I’m trying, but I can’t come up with any ways that my daughter is going to make a living from roller skating. I really have spent some time thinking about it. Aren’t there some professional roller derby teams? Are there still roller rinks? Maybe she could bring them back, turn them into a hub again, a community meeting place, maybe serve coffee or cocktails for the adults and smoothies for the kids? I’m not sure roller skating is going to work out as a career path, but just like I’ve been picking her up when the falls are a little bit too rough, I’ll pick her up and get her going again when professional roller skating and working as a school librarian prove challenging. In the meantime, her movements on those new skates are getting stronger, the distance she skates is getting longer, and she’s managed a few stops and turns—all on her own.

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