A Christmas story of mouse traps, giving — and receiving
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Looking back on my Christmases over the years, there’s always one memory that sticks out farther than others.
I was something like 8 or 10 years old, and the whole family was gathered at my grandparents’ house, as we did most years.
I knew what I wanted. I made sure Santa Claus knew well in advance, too, both in person and via a letter mailed to him, that the board game “Mouse Trap” was at the top of my list.
That morning started like any normal Christmas. We all took turns opening gifts, and the pile under and surrounding the tree grew smaller and smaller.
With each one opened, I felt a little more bummed out (I mean, tube socks? And arithmetic flash cards? Really, Santa?), because I was clever enough to see that of the few remaining presents, none were in that classic board game shape.
After all the gifts were unwrapped and as we milled around, cleaning up the wrapping paper, messing around with our new possessions and starting to wonder when it was time to eat, out came the “surprise gift for Kevin.”
“Oh boy,” I likely thought to myself. “This has got to be it; Santa simply couldn’t disappoint me this year, right?”
My grandpa handed the gift to me, and I was immediately confused. It was quite small, maybe a bit larger than a deck of cards, so there’s no way it could have been the board game.
But, being a kid, I still gleefully opened it. And what lay before me? A mouse trap.
No, not the board game. An actual real trap to kill mice.
And I was furious.
In my foggy recollection, I’m fairly sure I hurled the trap against the wall, screamed out loud and then stomped down the hallway, throwing more temper tantrums en route.
I suppose it depends on which family member you ask whether or not I kicked something, too, out of whiny frustration.
Anyhow, after I calmed down and was scolded for acting childish, lo and behold, I was given the “real” surprise gift, which was, in fact, the board game I so desired. And all was well that Christmas day.
It’s a silly memory of a holiday that’s likely surrounded by funny and head-shaking stories for many in this world who choose to celebrate it.
Over the years, I chuckle at mine, not only because of its humor, but because, while I didn’t know it at the time, that little joke was one of my first lessons in life about the importance of giving, and not just receiving, during the holiday season.
I know, I know. You hear it all the time: “It’s better to give than to receive.” To some people, that might come off as preachy, with a feeling of an ultimatum that if you don’t spend money or goodwill to give back, then you’re not as “good a person.”
After all, to receive something you want (or, something unexpected), it’s a great feeling. But at the same time, whether you call it karma or something else entirely, the feeling you get when you can make others happy is a pretty darned great one, too.
In that vein, it’s my opinion that it’s both better to give AND receive, because it’s that balance of give-and-take that keeps a really good cycle going.
So as we all gather with friends, family and others during whatever holidays we choose to observe in the coming days, let’s take a moment to remember the importance of not taking things for granted.
Whether it’s your grandpa, significant other, cousin, daughter or bestie — be grateful when they give you something, and be more than willing to return the favor.
That’s the kind of trap I’m more than willing to fall into.
— Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Reach him for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.