25: Past, Present, and Future

25: Past, Present, and Future

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Past, Present, and Future

May no gift be too small to give, nor too simple to receive, which is wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied with love.

~L. O. Baird

When my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I’m not sure if he was prepared for my reply: “The Famous Five series.” His first response was, “What’s that?”

I had to explain. He knew about my life as a missionary kid. He knew there was loss and grief associated with moving so many times and not really being able to go home again. He knew I had lost some material things along the way and would have loved to feel connected to a piece of each homeland I had known and loved. What I hadn’t explained quite yet was my desire to connect with my past through the books I had enjoyed as a child.

During our elementary school years in Austria, my older brother and I would frequent the British bookshop in Vienna. During those visits and various book fairs at my heavily British-influenced school we acquired all twenty-one books in the Famous Five series by the British author Enid Blyton.

We were so proud to have the whole series, and enjoyed reading about the adventures of the “Five,” which included siblings Julian, Dick, and Anne as well as their cousin Georgina (George) and her dog Timothy. Their adventures were akin to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series; written in overlapping time periods, albeit set in England, with British perspective and vocabulary. The stories feature outlandish plots revolving around catching smugglers, counterfeiters and kidnappers — quite extraordinary, considering the heroes were mere teenagers! My brother and I loved them, though. The books were our passports to adventures we would never experience in our own lives.

Unfortunately, while my brother and I were at boarding school in Germany, our family had to return to the States quite abruptly from Turkey due to a health emergency. My parents had to make some difficult decisions about what to bring to America. Since books are heavy, my parents were unable to bring most of our books with them, including the Famous Five series. I was heartbroken when I found out, but with so many other adjustments to distract me, my loss was tucked in the back of my mind.

Fast forward to seven years into my marriage, some seventeen years after I’d left my treasured Famous Five series behind, and the Christmas I decided I wanted to acquire my books. I had been searching the Internet for the series and getting frustrated, because no American book publishers or websites had the books. We could have bought them on a foreign website, but we were nervous about using our credit card that way and having them shipped from overseas.

With all the distractions of the approaching holidays, I once again tucked the loss of my beloved books in the back of my mind, and focused on making the holiday memorable for my little girl. Christmas Eve arrived and my husband, daughter, and I sat around the decorated Christmas tree, which sparkled in the darkened living room. We traditionally opened one present on Christmas Eve and each of us picked a gift. My daughter opened hers first, then my husband. I eyed my chosen present, a colorfully wrapped box, and guessed what it might be. “An elephant?” my daughter giggled. “Oh, let’s end the suspense!” I said, and began ripping off the wrapping.

It was a brown box, taped shut with clear packing tape. Could it be? I thought to myself. No way! As I picked at and pulled off the tape, my disbelief gave way to amazed joy as I beheld the title for the first book of the Famous Five series... and realized all twenty-one books in the series were nestled in the opened box! I looked up at my husband, with tears spilling over and dripping down my cheeks. “Thank you,” I whispered, setting the box down and throwing my arms around his neck as he sat on the floor. “But,” I stammered, “What American publisher was selling them? Where did you get them?”

My husband looked at me rather sheepishly and said, “India.”

Apparently, he had scoured the Internet and found a British publisher that was reprinting the entire series in India, and paid the amount in British pounds. Never mind he had to break his rule and use our credit card in far-off India; my happiness was apparently more important. This gift did not just replace some of the many cherished items I had lost from my childhood, it signified the incredible love and devotion of my husband. His thoughtfulness gave me courage to believe I could heal, a little bit at a time, and reminded me that I was worth the effort.

Being a teacher, I had the entire Christmas break to read through all the books. It was wonderful. So many memories resurfaced as I read; my mother reading the suspenseful plots from the series to me and my brother, and times I had read by myself, treasuring my solitude in my cozy apartment bedroom. I laughed at how cheesy some of the plots seemed from the perspective of an adult. Throughout my marathon of reading, I felt like I was returning home.

Whether a gift revives the past, celebrates the present or looks toward the future, the way it makes you feel treasured as an individual is paramount. My husband gave me back a piece of my lost childhood, but I am even more grateful for what he did for my future.

~Kristina J. Adams

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