I think I was about fourteen years of age that Christmas. The Christmas tree stood in the corner of my parents’ house, heavily laden with years and years of traditions and memories, from ornaments from my grandfather’s tree to cardboard cut-outs my littlest sister had just completed in school.
Most of us children had unwrapped our gifts, and were basking in that wonderful lazy feeling of coming down from the combination of Santa-high and the fact that our stomachs were full of fruit roll-ups and chocolate. On the “excitement” scale (from one to ten), we were at a healthy seven and that was slowly falling into a peaceful six.
My sister Rose and her husband Steve had just pulled in the driveway. Immediately, our excitement level went back up to a value of eight. We ran out to the car and welcomed Rose and Steve. I remember that the sun was shining that day, and I don’t recall much snow.
They brought a large bag inside the house, and we followed, excited to see them. After some cursory introductions, Steve and Rose told us that this year, times had been a little lean, and they didn’t have much to offer us in the way of gifts.
I remember that I felt a bit of sadness. In truth, there wasn’t a lot of “woe is me” in that sadness, even though I wasn’t getting a cool present from them. Instead, I felt sorry for my sister and brother who were trying hard to make ends meet. At that time, we Walshes understood hard times all too well.
Steve then opened the big bag he had brought in and reached all the way to the bottom. Gently, he pulled out some plastic wands about fourteen inches long and a quarter of an inch in diameter. They were made of clear plastic, and had little black and orange pieces of candy inside. On the top of every wand, there was a plastic toy ant, about three inches long. There was a suction cup on the bottom of the ant, and that was hollowed out so that it would stay on the plastic wand. Rose and Steve had probably got them from a clearance rack after Halloween.
Steve and Rose handed these wand-ants out to each of us one by one. Before we had all gotten our gift, (I think it was) Dan started using his wand-ant to playfully attack Joe’s wand-ant. As soon as I got mine, I attacked Rachel’s. Soon, all the children were engaged in an epic ant battle of exciting proportions. Across the room, the battle raged, while we were whooping, hollering, and laughing. I can’t remember whose it was, but one of the wands got bent into a ninety degree angle. We all laughed about it, and I think that person bent it back straight, held the wand at the break, and then joined the fray again! Our excitement meter went up to eleven!
I was so busy playing with my siblings, I hadn’t noticed Steve and Rose’s reactions. Apparently, their jaws were hanging out of their heads in sheer amazement, especially when they heard, “These are GREAT!”
After a few minutes more of this, they regained their composure, and the battle had begun to wane. I was making my ant walk up the boughs of the Christmas tree when I heard Steve tell us that it was supposed to be a joke. They had intended for us to be disappointed, so that they could reveal the true present, a new(ish) computer!
So, we followed them outside to their car, and lo, in the trunk sat a desktop computer and monitor, a Gateway 2000 4DX2-66. Before this, the family had had an old Tandy 1000SL, which could not even run Windows or any of the programs of the time. In contrast, this computer came with Windows 95 and Word 2.0!
We were all pretty excited about it, but in all honesty, I think we all had more fun with the ant-wands because we could all join in the fun. Only one or two people could sit at the computer at a time, and with six or seven kids still living at home, that made it challenging to use.
My sister Mary recently reminded me of that Christmas, and it made me appreciate the joy that I have for being a part of my family. I really like that memory because it shows off our “good side” as Walshes. My family isn’t perfect by any means. Heck, with that many people, there’s bound to be problems! Through it all, though, I have learned to love each member of my family uniquely and truly, and I am excited to see us through the years as we all grow and change.
That moment in Walsh history also reinforces truths of the heart for me, like the fact that money and family can never be compared, and that you can truly be happy and have fun, regardless of mean estate or circumstance. Those are lessons I hope I’ve really taken to heart, and I hope I’ll never forget them. I’m really grateful that I was taught truths like these, because knowing them seems to bring greater and greater joy in my life. Because of these things, I am very proud that I am a Walsh.