By Hank Nuwer
Christmas has come and gone. Weeks later, our family still had one gift to unwrap. Yes, I have a story to tell.
But first I want to explain why the Christmas of ’52 was my most unforgettable childhood holiday.
That was the year I printed a list for Santa only slightly shorter than the Buffalo phone directory. My parents warned me money was tight. They had just bought our very first house.
Top on the list was an Erector set with real metal tools; a Lionel train with smoking locomotive; a Hopalong Cassidy boxed set of a holster with a single-action, .45 caliber six-shooter, and a Mickey Mouse wristwatch with painted radium hands that glowed in the dark.
At 7 a.m., my kid sister and I pulled my parents out of bed.
My sister unwrapped a rubber doll that wet its nappy.
Her scream of joy no sense to me. Surely better would have been a toilet-trained doll.
Ma handed me a box. Had to be the Hoppy six-shooter!
“Don’t shake it,” Ma said. “It’s fragile.”
I tore off the paper. It was a chalk-ware statue of a two-foot tall boy wearing a red crown.
“What is it, Ma?”
“It’s an Infant of Prague statue,” Ma said. “You know, like Baby Jesus?”
“Surprised you, didn’t I?”
Oh, indubitably, I thought.
For my sister, the Infant turned out to be a second present. She and my mother had fun for years, making doll dresses out of satin and glittery stones.
Unfortunately, one day while sitting on my bed and bouncing a rubber ball off the wall, my errant throw knocked the infant off my chest of drawers.
Yes, I accidentally beheaded baby Jesus.
My mother didn’t take the news well when I brought her his little chalky head.
This memory came back because Gosia and I went browsing in a Union City antique store, and there on a shelf sat the same baby Jesus of my youth.
“You think we should buy him?” I asked.
“Oh, bring a terrible trauma from your childhood into our house to relive over and over?” she scoffed. “No way.”
So, onto the story of the memorable 2021 Christmas gift.
It was an additional stocking stuffer — a chocolate bar wrapped in gold foil from the Family Dollar — for visiting Natalia.
Except when she opened it, she found no chocolate.
The bar was a hard brick made from sand. It came with a tiny pick, shovel and red brush to sweep away the sand.
The manufacturer said every bar contained a nugget. It might be obsidian, pyrite, rainbow stone or real gold.
The manufacturer claimed one in 24 boxes had a piece of gold.
The three of us set the bar on a table.
Greed took over.
Maybe we had snagged a lucky gold nugget.
I pictured myself in the living room imitating Walter Huston’s dance in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre. “Hee, hee, hee.”
Taking turns, we chipped at the bar’s exterior with the teenie-weenie tools.
We raised some dust but barely dented the bar.
At this rate, it would take a year and a day to reach the nugget. The bar would make a perfect gift for someone with time on his hands.
Like your cousin Louie doing time in the Greybar Hotel for passing a bogus check.
Clearly, one more attachment was missing from the kit: A stick of dynamite.
Not finding a stick in our household supplies, we tossed the plastic pieces and brought out a carving knife.
Hack, hack, hack. The prize came into sight.
Rats, instead of gold, we found a small rectangle of obsidian.
It looked like hard candy.
This could turn out to be an expensive Christmas stocking stuffer if swallowed by your family’s gold digger.
Rock “candy” for $5. Emergence room visit: $475. Stone removal with shockwave lithotripsy: $14,800. Ibuprofen to take as the stone fragments pass: $4.95.
Altogether, let’s just say the total comes exactly to the cost of a new Chevrolet Spark.
Not having that much disposable cash, I’ll have to think of a different stocking stuffer to give Natalia next Christmas.
Maybe I’ll go back to the Union City antique store to bail out Baby Jesus.
Think I’ll shop for an antique Mickey Mouse watch.
Disclosure: The next year, my parents bought me an Erector set with real metal tools; a Lionel train with smoking locomotive; and a Hopalong Cassidy boxed set of a holster with a single-action, .45 caliber six-shooter. They didn’t buy a Mickey Mouse wristwatch with painted radium hands that glowed in the dark. My father said if I wore radium, “maybe one day you’ll also glow in the dark.”
Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.