2017-12-27 / Editorials

I’m a shaker

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

I’m a present shaker from way back.

When I was a little boy, I would rattle any Christmas present that had my name on it. As soon as gifts started appearing under the tree, I was under there, too.

My mother was continuously chasing me from under the tree.

“Mitch, get out from under that tree right now,” she said.

And I would. For a little while. Then I was back under the tree trying to decipher what was in the presents beneath our tree. If I might be allowed to brag a bit, I got quite good at it figuring out what each rattle was.

Some things just made a certain noise when you shook them. So before long, I had an idea of what was in every package under the tree. A model car rattled differently than a jigsaw puzzle. Tinkertoys rattled differently than Legos.

Of course, not all presents rattled. Some presents swished.

A swishing present usually meant your grandparents had bought you a shirt or sweater, or maybe a pair of jeans, because even shoes would rattle a little.

There was nothing wrong with these presents, mind you. But when you are a kid, it’s hard to beat a Christmas present that makes noise when you shake it.

To this day, I will shake a present before I open it. When you are an adult, though, you get a lot of swishing gifts — shirts, ties, sweaters — and I admit that I miss those noisy presents.

One year, when I was probably seven or eight, my mother got even with me for all that shaking I did. A present appeared under the tree with my name on it. It was about the size of a shoe box, but, boy, did it make a racket when I shook it. But it didn’t make model-car noises. It didn’t make jigsawpuzzle noises. It didn’t make Tinkertoy noises.

“What is it, Mama?” I’d ask.

“It’s a box of rocks,” she’d reply.

Let me tell you, that present became an obsession. I’ll bet I shook it a hundred times a day for the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. That present was making me crazy.

“Mama, please tell me what this is,” I’d plead.

“It’s a box of rocks,” she’d reply.

Finally, Christmas morning arrived. I may have set a world record for opening a present. Bows went flying. Wrapping paper went flying. The top of the box went flying. Tissue paper that protected the present went flying.

At last, I thought, I can see what is in this package.

It was a box of rocks.

I’m told the look of disappointment on my face was priceless, although there is no photographic evidence of this fact. My mother, meanwhile, had dived into the pile of wrapping paper looking for something I had missed.

On top of the tissue paper she had carefully wrapped around the rocks, she had placed a note, a simple little message that said that a brand-new bicycle was waiting for me out on the carport. In my haste to get the present opened, I never saw the note.

That box of rocks is one of my favorite Christmas memories. As we celebrate Christmas, it is my wish that the memories you create with your family be memories that last a lifetime.

I know they will with my family. I proudly tell people that I’ve never gotten a lump of coal in my stocking, but I have gotten a box of rocks under my tree.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch. clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/ mitch.

Return to top