This morning I spoke to Uncle Fred. He's now 71 years old and sounds like an old southern gentleman. I don't speak to him often; maybe every few years when I'm with Mom and he happens to call. No matter what the conversation centers on, we always talk about the same thing: a gift he gave me and my sister almost 50 years ago.
Uncle Fred had joined the army and was shipped to South Korea. The years were 1963-64--the Korean conflict had begun right after WWII and the country was divided into the north communist run state while South Korea remained a democracy. Uncle Fred was there as part of the peace keeping commission; Americans were stationed to keep the north from invading the south.
When Uncle Fred's tour in Korea finished, Mom's little brother pulled up in the passenger seat of a car in front of our house. He was wearing a uniform, was tall and handsome, wore a big smile, and in his hands were two big packages. I remember opening the boxes. In one of the cases was a beautiful Korean doll dressed in red embroidered satin. The other doll, chosen by my sister, was identical except for her blue satin dress.
I can still see the dolls; I can still see the moment.
Today, I asked Uncle Fred how he got those glass cased dolls back to the US in one piece. It seemed like an impossible to answer question considering it was 50 years ago, but Uncle Fred remembered.
"I carried those by hand all the way for my two nieces."
When I write this, when I remember, I cry.
My mind is flooded with many of the gifts I received as a child. I remember the person, the reason, the thoughtfulness and I wonder how much it impacted me as a person.
Sometimes I hesitate to buy presents for children. They already have too much, or I don't want to add to their junk collection or an already cluttered closet, or make my daughter have to deal with more little pieces that will eventually be vacuumed up or disposed of. But I think I have been wrong to hesitate, especially since my conversation with Uncle Fred when I realized once again, how much that special gift meant to me then and how much it still means to me now.