When I was six years old (over three decade
s ago), my brother
and I were trying to figure out what we were going to get for our mother
. I had already made a crude bookmark out of yarn
, but it wasn't good enough. We thought about it for days. Christmas was fast approaching, and we were lost for finding that "perfect" gift
I came up with the notion that we could buy her something. My brother had a whopping five dollars, which was only five dollars more than I had. I had to find money somehow, but people were not hiring six-year-olds in Queens, NY back then. I struck upon the idea of collecting Coca Cola bottles and returning them for a nickle each. I hit up every neighbor for their bottles, and when I told them what I was doing it for, they gave me all they had. One nice 80+ year old woman paid me a whole dollar to "help her out by taking those nasty old bottles off of her back porch".
I made a little over seven dollars this way. This was more money than I had ever had.
On December 23rd, my brother and I went to Central Avenue in Far Rockaway (years before it became a ghetto). We walked up and down the street, window shopping and even getting in some ideas for ourselves at the toy shop. We spent over two hours wandering the street, when we came upon a jewelry store. Not just any jewelry store, but one of the better ones in the area. I was convinced Mom would love some jewelry!
We went in and started looking at the diamonds. The saleswoman eyed us for a bit, and went in the back to get the owner. He was a kindly old gent, and he treated us like important customers.
"What can I get you two gentlemen this afternoon," he asked with a smile.
"We're looking to buy our Mommie some jewelry for Christmas," I replied. This was fun!
"Hmmm," he mumbled. "What price range are you looking at?"
I pulled the dollar bill and a few handfuls of nickles out of my pocket. My brother pulled out his fiver.
"Wow, that is a lot of money," he said with a twinkle. The saleswoman and the two older ladies she was helping had stopped their transaction, and they were watching us. The owner poked through my nickles, then said, "I may have just the thing for you two gentlemen. Please wait here while I go to the vault."
My brother and I started grinning. We were going to buy our Mom some expensive jewelry. We felt so grown up.
The owner came back with two items. One was a pin with a bunch of red stones, and the other item was a green and gold bracelet. Being only six, I picked up the red "ruby-encrusted" treasure in awe. I was sure Mom would love it. My brother loved the bracelet.
"How much, Sir?" I asked. The owner poked through the nickles again, and took exactly three dollars. He charged my brother three as well. The saleswoman and her customers began to ooh and ahh over them, and said that we got a good deal. The owner wrapped our gifts in shiny metal paper with bows and ribbons. We thanked them all for helping us pick out the perfect present.
When Christmas came, we first tore through most of our presents under the tree. We then decided to give Mom her gifts. She was very pleased with my bookmark ("What a wonderful job you did!"). When she opened my ruby pin, however, she began to cry.
I was very confused. "I can take it back if you don't like it," I said.
She choked back her tears, and told me that it was the first time we had actually gone out and bought her a gift. When we told her of our shopping adventure, she cried even more.
"I'm crying because this is the sweetest thing you two have ever done," she finally blurted. She gave us both a big hug.
So that Christmas, I gave her a ruby treasure, and a treasure from my heart she always kept with her.
When my mother passed away twenty years later, I found the pin in her jewelry box. She had kept it all those years.