The green wagon and other memorable gifts

By JEFF TOLMAN | Columnist

“What do you want for Christmas, Jeff?” my Mom asked.

“A green wagon.”

“Why green?”

“I don’t know. I just want my own green wagon. Very much.”

It was 1959. I was 6. We lived in Greybull, Wyoming, not exactly a hotbed for non-red wagons. Santa had a dilemma.

As I get older, I realize and appreciate more and more the things Mom and Dad did for me. While I was delighted Dad never missed my high school basketball games, not until I was an adult did I realize he either had to take a shift off or work a double shift so he could attend.

Only when I had kids did I experience the worries that go into parenting. Even of me.

It took until I was an adult to understand the difficulties my request for a green wagon entailed for my parents.

There was no online shopping. Cody, 60 miles away, had some stores, but none carried green wagons in December. Even in Billings, 2.5 hours away, finding such a gift was unlikely.

Yet on Christmas morning, six-year-old Jeff Tolman opened a nicely wrapped gift that filled his request and dream.

Some years later, I asked Dad about the wagon. Did you get an easily-found red wagon and paint it? Were there green wagons in the Big Horn Basin I was unaware of? How did the gift get under our tree at 300 N. 4th St. on Christmas morning?

He simply smiled and said, “I have no idea. Santa, it must have been.”

When I was 16, my parents gave me a shotgun. I hadn’t bird hunted much and to this day can’t hit the broad side of a barn at 20 yards. Only years later did I come to understand that the shotgun signified their confidence in me — that I was mature enough to possess a weapon; that I was trusted to keep it safely out of the reach of others; that it was, in Dad’s mind, a rite of passage, owning your own shotgun.

Though it hasn’t been shot four times in the last 48 years, the 20-gauge still reminds me of the trust, respect and responsibility I was given on Dec. 25, 1969.

When I was 18 or 19, my sister Anne got loads of presents. She opened one after the other while I got some underwear, socks and the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. When she was (finally!) done opening her gifts, I was handed a small, light box to unwrap. In it was a $100 bill. “This is yours, Jeff. To save or spend or buy yourself something you’ve always wanted. Merry Christmas.” For that moment, I was rich — $100 to do with whatever I wanted. I don’t recall what I did with the money. I was in college, so likely spent it on gas or food or dates. I do remember the feeling of sheer independence I had, having some money of my own to spend however I chose.

When my older son was 6, he and his brother opened their Christmas gifts chosen so wonderfully by their mom. There were practical things and just-fun gifts. As the boys went off to play with their new possessions, I wondered if either of them would remember any of the gifts when they were middle-aged adults. As I still do my miraculous green wagon from … Santa.

May you receive a gift this holiday season you’ll remember for decades.

Happy holidays.

— Jeff Tolman is a Poulsbo-based lawyer, municipal court judge, and periodic columnist for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at jefft851@gmail.com. Copyright Jeff Tolman 2017. All rights reserved.

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