Monday, December 10, 2012

Wishing can make it so

 From Jan. 29, 2005

It began with an E-mail from my mother last Tuesday and ended with me removing an item from my wish list.
“Let me know if you're in Cambria or close by some night. Grandma sent a gift for you and I would like to get it to you soon. You'll be VERY surprised...”
Mom had just returned from an extended weekend up North, spent with her parents. I called her that night to try to find out what the gift was, but she refused to tell me, insisting that it had to be a surprise given in person. All she would say was “It’s something you’ve always wanted.”
My father and I had been planning for over a month to go to a basketball game together that Friday, and I had no plans to head to Pardeeville before that.
The next call almost had me out the door though. It was my sister. Mom had called her and spilled the secret. Living up to the stereotype of the annoying little sister, she had to needle me with the knowledge that she knew what the surprise was and I didn’t.
“Don’t let them get your goat” is a bit of sage advice. As Dad puts it, my sister learned long ago where my goat is tied. But that’s a story for another column.
“They’re taunting me,” I said to my son.
On Wednesday I tried again to learn what the surprise was. This time I used my not-so-secret weapon. What grandmother could resist the entreaties of her only grandson?
I put my son on the phone with her. Surely he could weasel the information out of her. She was too wily for that trick, though, only offering another cryptic hint:
“The note with it will make you cry. I didn’t even know she owned it.”
Friday finally arrived, and weather conditions were less than ideal. My parents called to find out if I was still going to come over.
Of course I was. I HAD to know what the gift was
Driving in a snowstorm is no obstacle for a Yooper. We’d never leave our homes in winter if we couldn’t handle some flakes blowing around.
“Where is it?” were the first words out of my mouth when I walked in my parents’ front door. Mom made me wait in her bedroom with the door shut while she went to get the gift, which was still in the garage.
It wasn’t a patient wait. As soon as I was given clearance, I was out the door and down the hall in a flash. Waiting for me in the living room were two plastic tubs, filled with books. Very large books.
It was the Oxford English Dictionary, a 13-volume set, grandma purchased it in the early 1970s.
Anyone who read my column on Jan. 8 will remember that I outed myself as a word geek who coveted a copy of the OED.
Mom was right, the note did make me cry. Grandma was considering leaving the set to the college library, as she didn’t think anyone in her family wanted it until she read my column. Mom had brought copies of my last few columns up North for Grandma to enjoy.
I called my grandmother to thank her for such a lovely gift. She’s a retired English teacher, and knowing that we share a love for words and the evolution of language makes the gift even more special.

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