Giving is a gift in itself, part two

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

Each night, I carefully glued a section of stamps with a damp sponge onto the pages of the green stamp books.

By the first week of December, I was exhilarated to finally have, after acquiring nearly all of my Esso stamp gifts, the final three full stamp books for the “costliest” item: the covered casserole dish for my grandmother.

Soon, my dad and I drove to the Esso station for the fill-up. Then I noticed that the sign advertising the green stamp items on the grimy Esso station window was gone. I rolled down the window and held up my three stamp-filled books to Mr. Laticius, our neighbor and friend, a Lithuanian immigrant and owner of the Esso station. He gave me the sad news. “Ve don’ have de items no more,” he said. “ Ve ran out. Very fast.”

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“But what about these three full books?” I replied, trembling in disappointment and annoyance. I was determined my grandmother was going to have that covered casserole dish. My dad then had a solution, as he often did for everything.

“Do you think the Esso station on the other side of town still might have some of them in stock? We just need the one casserole dish.”

Mr. Laticius smiled as he came back from the office phone and told us someone from the Esso station across town was coming over with the rest of the green stamp special holiday stock.

And the next day, my Christmas gift green stamp campaign was complete.

I felt so proud and so grown up to place each gift I had wrapped with my mom’s tartan plaid wrapping paper, and tied with curled gold ribbon, under our tree.

Forward to February of 2001. My grandmother just passed away the previous month at the age of 87. We are in her home cleaning out and organizing her possessions to go to family members or to the estate sale.

I’m in the kitchen, pulling out cookware and pots from the bottom cabinets. The kitchen floor is lined with boxes, designated for either Goodwill or the estate sale, as no one in the family wants or needs cookware.

After the mixing bowls, I pull out the casserole dishes. I then see a familiar orange etching at the side of a casserole dish that suddenly floods me with memories and unexpected tears. I revisit a scene from childhood: my grandmother thanking me with a hug for her beautiful casserole dish, and how truly delightful she finds it.

I realize now she was expressing love for my determination and resourcefulness in giving her a gift I had procured on my own—well, mostly on my own.

And that casserole dish is now in my kitchen, but used only during the holidays, during which I’ll tell my children and grandchildren the story of my green stamp Christmas gifts.

By Deborah Craig