Surprise Gifts

St. Nicholas Day is coming to a close, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect upon gifts. I’ve been doing that a lot this week, anyway. Yesterday I preached a practice sermon on gifts (I’ll give it for real on the Sunday after Christmas). And now I’ve just been noticing gifts everywhere. Plus there are all the commercials. But I’m not talking about those kinds of gifts. And it was just Hanukkah.

Which brings me to The Maccabeats. I LOVE The Maccabeats. And I’m really excited that I just got tickets to see them in January – how cool is that? OK, back on topic now. Yes, The Maccabeats. So for Hanukkah, I was trying to post a Maccabeats YouTube video for each night. There was a special one for this year that wasn’t a Thanksgivikkah song per se, but it had a whole Thanksgiving feast in the middle of the video, so of course I used that one. But the thing is, The Maccabeats don’t have eight Hanukkah songs yet. Of which I’m aware. So I had to repeat a couple.

Which brings me to “Candlelight” – which I’d say is one of my favorites, but in truth, they all are. But I do love this one. “I flip my latkes in the air sometimes…” – it’s just great. And there are a few scenes that are filmed in a park. Well, that makes sense, they’re pretending to be Greeks and the Maccabees fighting it out. But after having watched this video for the umpteenth time, I suddenly realized that I knew exactly where they were. Now, I knew that The Maccabeats were Yeshiva students in New York City, so it wasn’t that surprising that they’d use New York locations. That wasn’t the gift.

So there I was, watching the video again, when I suddenly realized that I knew what park they were in. It was Ft. Tryon Park, where I spent most Sundays with my father when I was little. Further, I recognized the tree. I mean, THE Tree. The Tree, where my father took the photo of me playing hide-and-seek with my grandfather when I was two years old. That was in 1964. He sent it to the New York Times and they published it (my dad was a part-time professional photographer). It was one of his best photos ever, and one of my favorites. When my 20-year-old was two, we went back to The Tree, and I took a photo of her playing hide-and-seek with my father. The Tree. It’s got to be over 100 years old, because I’m sure it was over 50 years old in 1964. It’s in the video.

What a great gift coming to me from YouTube! Listening to a song I love and watching the video, and BAM! Childhood memory!  And this isn’t the only time the Maccabeats have done this. In another Hanukkah video they go to The Little Red Lighthouse. I don’t know how many people outside of the New York City area know about The Little Red Lighthouse, but in New York City, it’s a big deal. It’s the little lighthouse that sits on the Manhattan side just under the George Washington Bridge. I remember visiting there when I was in nursery school (what we now call pre-school).

Funny how those memories can just pop up at us like that, and draw us right in. And it’s absolutely a gift. The memory is a gift. The trigger is a gift.

Today I ran into someone who was telling me about preparations for a Christmas celebration that we have every year at our church. I forget what year it was when we added the men’s Morris Dance team – Blokes With Oaks, but they’ve been a staple for years. This gentleman said to me today that in planning, one of the men said that they would have to replace Don this year. He thought that would make me sad, but it made me smile to know that people are thinking about Don. That was a gift.

My 20-year old just wrote a wonderful poem about a childhood memory jumping in newly-raked leaves with Sean, my deceased son. A wonderful poem, a wonderful memory, and another wonderful gift.

One of the best things about these gifts is that they’re so unexpected. There’s no anticipation. There’s just the surprise. The memory just suddenly appearing. It’s a wondrous thing.

May you receive the gift of happy memories.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.



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