In the days of my youth the Sears & Roebuck catalog was equivalent to our present day shopping malls. One could find just about anything in the pages of the catalog, from musical instruments, to motor scooters. The Christmas Sears catalog was, without a doubt, the source of the presents Santa and Mrs. Claus’ provided under Christmas trees in many a home, including my own.
When I was ten years old, I became an avid viewer of the musical section in the Sears catalog, spending much time looking at and dreaming of purchasing the guitar listed there for $9.95 and the guitar carrying-case for an additional $4 or so. I saved my “birthday money,” pulled weeds in a neighbor's garden for 25 cents an hour, and did whatever else was available for a ten year old to make money. By September of that year I had enough money to buy the guitar and the carry-case—a grand total of $13.95. Reluctantly, my father wrote the check to Sears Roebuck as I handed over to him all my hard-earned cash. And then, I waited…and waited….and waited. September came and went, then October, November and December and still no guitar. No one else seemed to be bothered by the delay.
On Christmas morning (nearly four months after ordering it from the catalog) I found my guitar under the Christmas tree. I remember feeling elated to finally have it, but also a bit frustrated that it should show up as a gift when I had worked so hard to buy it for myself.
This memory, “pressed between the pages of my mind” lingers still. Was the guitar a gift or was it something I did on my own, something I had worked for and rightfully earned? As the years go by, I am more and more convinced that it is foolish to suggest that we have worked our way to some point, or even earned what we have, or deserve what we have received. Life (all of it, including a guitar) is always gift. I wonder: did my parents know this?