When I was in 6th grade, all I really wanted for Christmas was a rock tumbler. But life is really like a box of chocolates, isn’t it?
I saw an ad for it somewhere. Maybe in Boy’s Life magazine. It was probably near the ad for “Build Your Own Hovercar with Just a Vacuum Cleaner!” I really wanted that, in fact, but didn’t think my folks would go for it and I didn’t have the hundred bucks to buy the kit. I’m told they didn’t actually work very well — dodged a bullet there.
A rock tumbler seemed really neat, though. I was kind of a budding rock hound in those days — I used to collect bits of quartz and other interesting stones. I had quite a bit of quartz stolen from the rock bed in front of my school, in fact. But I never did anything with the rocks, I just collected them. A rock tumbler was a use for them. I could shine up the rough edges, maybe even make jewelry out of them and sell the pieces for money! Awesome!
I told my dad about it because, for some reason, he seemed the likeliest to buy it for me. This was July. Basically I was asking him to either get it for me then or get it for me for Christmas. I believe I mentioned it to him once. Then I mentioned it to him a few more times the next month. Then a few more times later on. And then a few more reminders even later.
Unfortunately I fell into the common trap that befalls most kids where *stuff* is involved: you fixate on this one thing and it becomes all-encompassing. You’ll die if you don’t get it — or at least be super-disappointed. By the time December rolled around the idea of getting a rock tumbler was akin to finding a pony under the tree.
Finally, Christmas arrived. My siblings and I tumbled out of bed and ran to the tree. All sorts of gifts were wrapped under there. Each gift was decorated not with a nametag, but with a tiny gift representing me, my sister, and my brother. My sister was newly interested in makeup, so she had various cosmetics taped to her gifts marking them as hers. I believe my brother’s gifts each had a MicroMachine taped to them because he loved Micro Machines. Mine were marked with a set of small screwdrivers and wrenches, because I like taking things apart.
We tore through our gifts. There were clothes, books, Nintendo games. Our heart’s desires were under that tree — well, almost all our heart’s desires. When the dust settled there were no gifts left and though there had been several promising-looking boxes, none contained my dream. I was sorely disappointed.
I tried to surreptitiously look around for another gift while also trying not to appear sad. My dad asked, “Is everything alright, Jonathan?” I said, “Yeah, thanks for all the gifts, Dad. I really liked the nametags too.” And then I fiddled with the little screwdrivers. He replied, “Oh, there’s one more gift for you, I almost forgot. Let me get it.”
Dad reached behind the couch and pulled out one last wrapped gift. He handed it to me. It was heavy. Suspiciously so!
My eyes lit up, as I eagerly grabbed the gift. I ripped off the wrapping paper and saw a plain, white cardboard box. There was a small Avery label on the top with typewritten print that read, “Rock Tumbler Model #suchandsuch”. I may have squealed with delight.
Dad goaded me, “What is it? What is it?”
Excitedly, I flipped up the lid to peer into the box and see my new wonder. The family sat on the floor in front of me, waiting expectantly amidst the detritus of our unwrapping. A hush fell across the living room.
I looked inside the box. With the lid up the family could only see my expression. They couldn’t see my gift.
“What is it?!” Dad prodded, again.
I said, “Golden Books.”
Inside my white, cardboard box with the little Avery label that read “Rock Tumber Model #suchandsuch” were fifty Golden Books.
I looked up at dad to see if this was a joke. Because, sure, dad plays practical jokes sometimes — but not with gifts like this. Not when it’s important… Does he?
I asked, “Are you joking with me?” At this point I was really uncertain if the books were my gift for real or not — he looked so expectant, sitting there smiling as if I was really going to like the gift. No, definitely not a practical joke here. This was a moment of High Confusion for young me. I didn’t really want a bunch of books for toddlers, but apparently dad was pretty pumped to give them to me.
He repeated his query and I said, “It’s Golden Books” and handed him the box.
And indeed it was. A bunch of Golden Books were shipped to dad by mistake. He’d heeded my repeated requests, but the company he ordered from screwed up. The box even said “rock tumbler” so dad had no reason to be suspicious. I guess I received someone else’s order. At the time I imagined somewhere out there was a 3 year old with a shiny new rock tumbler. This saddened me.
At least I knew he had listened to me.
The rest of Christmas was fine with only a little upset on my part. I basically had to wait for the shipping company to correct their mistake. Alas, by the time I received the actual rock tumbler in February, my interest had waned. I half-heartedly tried to use it once, but didn’t read the instructions correctly and the polishing powder turned into cement; basically destroying the device.
But all was not sadness. The event did spawn a tradition for my family. From that Christmas forward, if I was receiving gifts be it birthday or Christmas, there was a good chance that someone would give me a single, lovingly wrapped Golden Book.
And those I kept. They now have a use.