All I wanted for Christmas that year was a Rubik’s cube. Now, that sounds like a ridiculously cheap and easy holiday gift, compared with iPads and Xboxes dominating lists today. But, in 1981, it really was all I wanted. Purchasing a Rubik’s cube involved traveling out of the local town and toward the city, and they were getting snapped off the shelves. I had visions of becoming the world’s fastest cube solver, appearing on some variety show with my fast-handed talents. I wanted to make multi-color patterns of squares in contrasting colors on each side. I thought this was something at which I could excel, and it would somehow mark my quintessential nerdiness in a respectable way. I knew I could be queen. But first, I needed the cube.
I managed to find a tiny cube to hang off my purse, but it only turned one way because it was really just for decoration. I ordered a cube by collecting chex cereal box tops, but it came with stickers on each side that quickly peeled off. I was waiting for Christmas for the real deal.
My Dad came in a few days before Christmas and placed a small box under the tree, with a glimmer in his eye. I was overflowing with hope. Not just hope…I was 100% convinced that my future Guinness Book of World Records entry was being written up in advance, as soon as I could open the perfect little package.
“No shaking.” Dad said.
I waited until he was out of the room, and then I shook it. Perfect…I could hear it sliding slightly in the perfect sized package, and it was the right weight. I overflowed with hope and excitement, waiting for Christmas morning. Smug and snug in my bed, I knew I had exactly the gift I wanted, all wrapped up under the tree.
Christmas morning, we ritualistically opened stockings first, then we selected the first gift to open. I went right for the box I longed for with hopeful expectation. I gleefully ripped paper, saw the box, announced that I had knew all along that it was the Rubik’s cube I had hoped for. I opened the box and out rolled a gourd.
A gourd? A GOURD!!
Dad had even dutifully cut and colored squares of paper on each side to look like a Rubik’s cube, and boxed it in the perfect disguise. He laughed so hard he was choking and I sat there, fuming. It looked like what I hoped for, shook like what I hoped for, felt like what I hoped for. But, it wasn’t what I hoped for. It was a gourd.
I am sure I was the picture of pre-adolescent spite and angst that morning. True to my family’s wit, there was an actual Rubik’s cube awaiting me later that day, at my Gramma’s house. Not only was there a Rubik’s Cube, but a Missing Link awaited me, too. Everyone loved the joke, and eventually it even sunk in to me as funny. Eventually.
Now, it’s hysterical. It’s a favorite family story that keeps us entertained in retelling through the years. I would probably do the same thing to my daughter and she would be just as spiteful with me. Sometimes we hope so hard that we convince ourselves that we already have that which we await right within our grasp. And sometimes, we practically do…but we may find ourselves unmasking a hidden gourd first. When we wait in hope, we definitely need to keep our eyes open. We need to be awake, alert, to avoid the traps of our humanness as we so often hear about during advent.
And, I have learned, I need to keep a sense of humor, too.
I never made the cut of world’s fastest Rubik’s cube solver, and I moved on to more pragmatic ambitions with maturity. But, I enjoyed my toys, and I still enjoy hearing my Dad tell this story of his great cube prank. Maybe that was really the true gift after all.