It was right there like a long lost friend under the Christmas tree, set up early to welcome me when I arrived to visit my son in Hawaii last week.
With wings slightly battered and a body of red and blue plastic (the plane, not my son) it was the image of the real C130 cargo plane still flying proudly today. (Popular Mechanics ran an article in April titled, “Why the C-130 Is Such a Badass Plane.”)
The plane also symbolized the redemption of one of my worst parenting mistakes.
Many Christmases ago, I planned to teach my family the value of sharing toys with less fortunate children. That was good.
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Where I went wrong was that I insisted that each child give away something that was valuable to them. Not just a worn-out toy, but a real sacrifice.
Then I proceeded to pick out which toy it should be. I selected my 5-year-old’s beloved C130 cargo plane. It opened up like a real plane so he could load it with cars. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t require myself to make a similar sacrifice.
They say big boys are just little boys at heart and this young man who would grow up to fly faster, sleeker planes from an aircraft carrier always mourned that cargo plane.
This year, after a long search, his wife found the plane on eBay and set things right.
Like many families, the Christmases we most remember are the ones when we all worked together to create something special.
For instance, there was the Noah’s Ark that existed nowhere else in the world.
The proud recipient remembers, “I got it when I was in the second grade, when we lived in Ohio. It had lots of animals, the roof came off, it had a door/ramp and it had Noah, all three sons and they all had wives and, I still have it. It’s in darn near perfect shape.”
His father meticulously created the ark, with removable roof and Mom made the Noah family from papier mache’ to shepherd the parade of animals.
Five seems to be the age for magic. Big brother remembered a special year.
“I don’t think I’ll forget the Christmas in White Sands (New Mexico) when I was 5. I got up two or three times to sneak out to the living room to see what Santa brought. But every time I went out, Santa was standing there, looking down the hall. Quick, back to bed before he sees me!
“After everyone got up, it turned out “Santa” was an inflatable Yogi Bear punching bag that looked like Santa in the dark. He got a couple of extra smacks for scaring the stuffing out of me.”
In a landmark year, we created an electric train layout for that same recalcitrant brother. He had been punished with loss of birthday celebration because he dropped his 2-year-old brother into a benjo (bathroom) ditch in Taiwan.
That certainly didn’t seem sufficient reason to him to be punished. In his view, the effluvia washed right off his brother.
“It wasn’t my fault,” the offender insisted. “He bounced the stroller into the ditch all by himself.”
I never asked myself if it was sensible to allow a little boy to be babysitting near such a hazard. No one took my birthday away.
Our youngest son remembered that Star Wars toys and a 2-foot-long blue whale were special but didn’t hold a candle to his most wonderful Christmas gift — a brand new baby boy, the first child for him and his wife, born on a Minnesota Christmas Eve.
In Ohahu’s Waikele neighborhood, an enchanting thing happens each year. The entire street comes alive with Christmas lights, as each home decorates with anything from sparkling palm trees to Peanuts characters.)
The displays are unified by lighted arches erected in front of each house. The arches come to synchronized life with a music and light program created by Waikele Wizard of the lights, Keith Yoshida.
The street is closed to cars as it seems all of Ohau comes to enjoy the magic, and contribute thousands of dollars to local charities. On my last night in Hawaii, we pulled chairs outside to listen to the carols and watch the lights and rejoice.
The C130 still flies and our Christmas Eve boy is looking at colleges now, but the world is still full of magic and we can believe that a special baby born at Christmas will always be the best gift of all.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.