The Sentiment of Things

“What are we doing with this sled?”

Mike has asked me that question every November for the past five years or so, and for the past five years or so, I have given him the same answer: “I want to keep it.”

The sled in question is a wooden toddler pull sled with a high back, a red cushion seat, and a yellow pull rope. My dad had gotten the sled from L.L. Bean for my son Wesley’s first Christmas. Wesley is now 10, and my younger son Wayde will soon be 8, so it goes without saying that the sled hasn’t been used for years. It has pretty much been sitting in the garage taking up space and gathering spider webs, a fact that Mike reiterated every year.

So why did I hold onto it?

Well, I guess the obvious answer is sentiment. My dad died when Wesley was a little over a year old, and despite the fact that he and I didn’t always get along, I still miss him, especially around the holidays. In a way, holding onto that sled was a way to hold onto a piece of him, and a part of me felt that if I got rid of that sled, I was getting rid of my dad.

So I’d find reasons to keep that sled for another year. Maybe Wesley or Wayde could pass it on to their kids. Maybe the grand-nieces and grand-nephews could ride it if they visit when there’s snow on the ground. Maybe I could set it on the front porch as a Christmas decoration.

But then the voice of reason interrupts my excuses. There’s no guarantee that Wesley and Wayde will ever have kids, and even if they do, what shape would the sled be in by that time? As for the grand-nieces and grand-nephews, they rarely visit anyway, and I can’t recall snow ever being on the ground when they were here. And using the sled as a Christmas decoration? Well, even though we don’t exactly live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, I’d be too worried about it being stolen to ever set it outside anyway.

So at last this year, I finally caved in and agreed to post it for sale on one of the local yard sale pages on Facebook, figuring it likely wouldn’t sell anyway. Then I could keep my sled, but I would still be able to say, “Hey, I tried to find a new home for it.”

Well, as luck would have it, within an hour of posting it, I had a taker. So, with a lump in my throat, I made arrangements to meet the potential buyer that weekend. I lovingly wiped the spiderwebs from the sled and straightened the red cushion before putting it in the Equinox, all the while thinking of my dad and wondering if he’d be okay with me selling Wesley’s Christmas present.

The lady who bought the sled turned out to be a lovely woman whom I judged to be only a few years older than I am. She was buying the sled as a Christmas gift for her little granddaughter. Her eyes lit up when she saw the sled, and she declared it absolutely perfect.

We talked for a bit, and I told her of my internal struggle over getting rid of it. She completely understood, having gone through similar feelings herself after the death of her mother, but she assured me that it was all right to let go of the sled. She told me that it was no coincidence that I had posted the sled for sale at the very time she was looking for one for a Christmas gift for her granddaughter; she felt that it was meant to be and that my dad would very likely be pleased.

The more I thought about it, the more I believe she was right. I haven’t forgotten my dad or his love for me or Wesley because I passed the sled on to someone else. And it is nice to think about the little girl waking up to that sled under her tree on Christmas morning.

In the end, it comes down to remembering that it’s not the things themselves that make the memories; it’s the love that is shared in the giving, as well as the enjoyment that comes from using those things for their intended purpose.

I’d like to think that my dad is smiling down from  heaven, knowing that his gift will be enjoyed by another grandchild this Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Dad.

It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose…

This morning I accompanied my kids to a JBQ (Junior Bible Quiz) tournament. They both did their best, and my younger son “quizzed out” (answered five questions and earned the right to sit out the rest of the round) on his final round. Still, they were both discouraged that their teams didn’t win and that their scores didn’t earn them a place in the top ten quizzers, so they both declared that they wanted to quit the team and not participate either in the final tournament in January or come back next year. Of course, I shared their disappointment and wished they could have done better, but I tried to be a good parent and tell them that they had done their best and that with more studying, they could do better next time. When they still said it was no use trying again and that they still wanted to quit, I had to get a little tough with them. I told them that winning wasn’t everything and that they couldn’t take the attitude that it wasn’t worth participating if they couldn’t always win. I explained that there are many times in life where their participation and their perseverance are more important than whether or not they won or got acknowledged for what they did.

When we got home, I hopped on Facebook to see what was new in the land of social media. I scanned through the numerous posts on the NaNoWriMo page, and I saw quite a few folks saying that they were throwing in the towel, or strongly considering throwing in the towel, because for whatever reason, they were so far behind in their word counts that they would never be able to reach that elusive 50K goal. Well, you know, I’m once again in that same boat. With being involved with all the kids’ school activities and Scout activities, not to mention my church commitments and my book promotion commitments, I don’t have a lot of writing time myself, and I spent a few minutes commiserating with these writing buddies. Then I happened to read a few comments in one of the discussion threads in which someone jumped in and said pretty much the same thing to the discouraged writer that I had said to my sons–“Even if you only write 20K words, or 2K words, or even just 200 words, that’s more than you had written at the beginning of NaNo. Every word you write is a victory, even if you don’t ‘win.'”

So later tonight, or tomorrow afternoon, or whenever I’m able to sit down to add some words to my NaNo project, I will do so  with that advice in mind. And I hope that I can, by my example as much as by my words, show my kids that even grown-ups sometimes have to just do their best and accept that they may not always reach the goals they set for themselves.

And that’s okay.

The important thing is the fact that I am participating in something I enjoy and that by persevering, I will become a better writer in the long run.