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My gift to Ott Gangl

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Here's the story I promised you, Ott, and while it is no Sigi Story, it may hold some memories for you, too. I wrote this 13 years ago, and I'm glad I did, because memory fades.

Merry Christmas to you, Ott, and to anyone willing to plow through this sappy rendering of one kids memories. :

Pretty Paper

Grandma’s Christmas box was all the gift I needed every year. It was hidden away in the basement of her 1880’s house somewhere and only in sight for two days.

The Christmas box was nothing beautiful or fancy. It was a beaten-up cardboard box with the words “Fragile—Handle with Care” printed in faded blue on one side and was close to velvet in feel, it was so worn. It didn’t even close properly.

This was not the box that held the thin, brightly colored glass ornaments, the angel-shaped candles, or lights that bubbled with colored water. There were no nutshell Santas, no camels sleeping serenely by a manger. It was full of wrinkled wrapping paper.

Grandma never wasted anything. Over 30 years of collecting created the visions that I came to cherish: candles burned eternally in wreaths on a blue background; carolers sang in unison under the amber glow of gaslight; mufflered skaters glided on silver ponds; simple one-inch snowmen raised crippled twig arms, bringing greetings with goofy coal smiles and sleepy eyes; pine trees wrapped their white cloaks tightly around them while doves sailed over their green peaks, each pair holding red ribbon banners declaring peace for the world.

My Christmas gift had always been wrapped in the over-used paper from that glorious box, and just one peek into it would cause my heart to overfill with anticipation. It did not matter the gift I would get—skates, dolls, books, blocks—it was enough to know that I could choose the paper to wrap it in, and would spend one whole evening choosing the paper and helping Grandma wrap the family gifts.

The wrapping ritual began after dinner every December 23. The usual chores were set aside for the next day, and Grandma would nod for me to follow and slip away to the basement with her wrapping accoutrements—scissors, tape, tags, boxes, and a hot cup of tea.

As I slid down the wooden basement steps made slick by too many coats of dolphin-grey deck enamel, my legs braced for impact at the bottom. I did not realize what a fragile thing memory was. This was Forever! I would never be without the things I held so dear. I am seven, and the world is simple and pure, mystical and free, and it will never change because it is perfect.

There is Grandma under the halo of a single bare bulb in our basement rendezvous, the aroma of baked apples and pine in the air, wet snow sticking to the window set high in the wall. We talk idly about holidays long gone by, Grandma’s still-nimble fingers masterfully folding the crumpled paper around a wooden truck for one of the two dozen cousins, me tearing off tape and lining them up perfectly on the edge of the porcelain tabletop. Curling ribbons between scissors and thumb, we created ethereal flowers for our nostalgic packages. Grandpa is in another world above us, chuffing at the dog to go lay down.

We are finished before it becomes a chore, our timeless packages stacked neatly in boxes, promising days of pleasure. The cuckoo clock chirps solemnly that another day will soon begin, and reminds us that even angels must rest. Upstairs, snuggled in flannel pajamas under ragged handmade quilts, I float away to dream of Christmas Day.

Soon this house will be filled to capacity with the laughter of my aunts, uncles, and cousins—37 of us in all. The women would spend most of the day cooking and joking in the kitchen, the overwhelming smells of turkey, ham, and hot fruit pies permeating the entire house. Card games would be started and played until midnight and beyond. The boys would play army in the basement, the girls setting up makeshift hospitals for soldiers and dolls caught in the crossfire of an imaginary war. At the end of the day, when exhausted, kids would fall asleep packed like kippers in three of Grandma’s double beds. My world would never be more perfect.

But time passes through our lives and memories fade as new ones are made. Grandma died several years later, and someone tossed the wrapping paper box in the trash. I cried, not for the box itself, but for the memories it held for me. That year I started my own Christmas box.

My daughter is seven this year, and her world is simple and pure, mystical and free.
post #2 of 24
I'm sure you don't mind if others take a peek into the box too, Bonni. Thanks for the reminder about the simplicity and glory of sharing. You have a lucky daughter.
post #3 of 24
I'm crying! That was just so beautiful, thanks! [img]graemlins/angel.gif[/img]
post #4 of 24
Beautiful. Perfect.
post #5 of 24
Thank you, Bonni, this is the best Christmas gift I received this year. I am typing this with tears in my eyes, thank you again.

....Love, Ott
post #6 of 24
Beautiful story, Bonni--thanks! And thanks for sharing it with all of us.

Merry Christmas!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #7 of 24
Hey Bonni,

I haven't been on line for awhile, and just happened to see this piece this morning. It is wonderful, after skiing with you here in Brighton, to know that your spirit in skiing is so congruent with your spirit in writing.

I'm in awe.

post #8 of 24
Bonnie I do not know how I missed this. Thanks for sharing.
post #9 of 24
WoW! Talk about timing.

Bonni this little story made me cry, so much of my mother was in her apartment, and I am having a hard time getting rid of the most simplest things because of the memories it holds for me.

Yesterday I had to sell some of my mothers furniture, it was hard for me to do because one of the pieces is something I always loved as a child. Even my children love to explore the many drawers in the secretary. I am going to miss that thing but the lady who bought it will give it a good home and lots of love.
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
I wish you could have kept the secretary, as I know just how things like that can have special meaning.

There was a small plaster cast of a monkey that sat on my granma's big old grandfather clock. It was about 3 inches tall, crudely painted, and he had on a little hat like an organ grinders monkey would have, and was holding a barrel of some kind. I used to stick my finger in the barrel and feel it's softness.

When my grandma died, I got that from her. It's a simple thing. But means so much.

My condolences, and keep the memories dear. They become priceless.
post #11 of 24
For those who don't yet know: (A) Bonni was an English major. (B) She has written stories before this one, which are at least as good. (C) This girl can WRITE!
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Aw, gee golly whiz, you've blown my cover, oboe. Now I'm expected to use decent grammar and punctuation.

Only when necessary, as I like to slag off when it doesn't count.

Does this count? NAH!
post #13 of 24
You go, Bonni. Write on/Ride on.
post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

Someone said you told them that when there is weather on the mountain, you just say, "well, that's what's on the menu for today."

I find that phrase is good for a lot of situations, not just weather!

I think I've said that over 2 dozen times since last week.

I just love it!!!!!
post #15 of 24
"It's what they're serving."

My husband said that to me years ago when I complained about a gray day of spring skiing. I too thought it was profound. It shut me up and got me skiing.
post #16 of 24
Nolo, Weems had been talking to us about how important it was to accept the varying conditions, and not expect your skiing to be the same. I told him that story about your husband. It kind of became our theme.
post #17 of 24
Bonni, very enjoyable reading, thanks a lot!

I also like another sentence from Nolo "Cowboy up!"
post #18 of 24
All fundamentals of the Way of the Cowboy. A romantic myth, of course, but one that works wonderfully for teaching skiing at a resort in Montana!
post #19 of 24
time for another "gift" bonni.
post #20 of 24
Ryel, thanks for the bump. How did I miss this in 03 ??? and yeah, it has me all freakin misty eyed.

I still have one of those rag quilts, thread bare in the center on one side .... and I still use it. Knowing it was made by her during the depression makes it a lot warmer.
post #21 of 24
Thread Starter 
Ryel, thanks for the bump, although I'm with Yuki and 'all freakin misty eyed'.

You're right, there's another 'gift' wanting out. I started it in the shower (I hope I can remember from shower to laptop......old age sucks!), and with help from the muse, I'll print it here soon.

You guys Rock.:
post #22 of 24
Bonni : This is an incredibly beautiful story which tugs at all of our heartstrings and still rings true . I too like others have similar memories and experiences

And now in our roles as grandparants "The Queen of the Hop " and I try our Best to recreate similar experiences for our grandchildren. Making memories is the finest thing you can do for another .

Thanks for sharing yours Bonni!!!
post #23 of 24
Wonderful story Bonni. I always enjoy a good Ott story. I ran across this advise he gave a while ago about his forumla for being comfortable in the zone:

Originally Posted by Ott Gangl View Post
Well, maybe it's time to repeat my advice to John from a year or two ago:

>>>>For myself I spent the rest of the morning not skiing so much but trying different things like 5 short radius alternating with 5 long turns, one ski vs two ski balance, playing with varying levels of countering,<<<

John, when we ski together in Seven Springs there will be no drills and all thinking will be suspended. Over fifty years ago back home in the Bavarian Alps I learned the formula, I'll give it to you now so you can 'think' about it now BECAUSE ALL THINKING WILL BE OUTLAWED THERE WHILE SKIING!

Here is the formula:

In the morning, before we start to ski we drink three shots of Jaegermeister and chase it with a beer. That is just enough to still keep your equilibrium and balance but it will suspend all THINKING.

The litmus test to see if you have it just right is that after a few turns you should feel like YODELING and NOT be aware that you are on skis, it doesn't matter if you know how to yodel or not and all skiers around you should look like angels floating down the slope.

If, after a few turns you 'think' "I don't feel like yodeling and I'm still aware of my skis and all skiers around me look like hacks" , you are 'thinking' too much and you need a reinforcing shot of Jaegermeister.

If, on the other hand you notice that you fall down after releasing at the end of every turn, three shots were too much, understandable since Jaegermeister affects people with lower body weight more than us normal heavyweights.

In that case you need to sit on the sun deck for an hour, making sure you take off your goggles or sun glasses so you won't look like an owl when you get home and it also helps to hold one of those reflective shields under your chin. In my case, I also need to take my hat off so my bald head doesn't look like I'm wearing a scull cap without a hat on.

When the skiers on the slope look like angels floating down the hill it is time to put your skis back on.

After a good and plenty lunch three shots of Jaegermeister will assure that your nap will be restful and that when you wake up you are prepared to go to happy hour (or tea dance, when in Europe) and enjoy your manhattans.

Anderl Molterer, a hotshot racer in the olden times had it right with the exception that he chased his Jaegermeisters with champagne. Easy for him since he never had to pay for it.

So now you know. Start practicing "NOT THINKING WHILE SKIING".

post #24 of 24
Where is Ott anyhow?

He is a staple here at Epic and wish he'd be more of a regular again.
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