December 4th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Teddy
By Richard Taylor, (Grn Mt Man)

VERMONT!

Being born and raised in the fourteenth "admitted" state, at least in the 1940's through the 50's absolutely guaranteed you a cold and snowy holiday season.

On the morning after a fresh nighttime snowfall it was your duty; actually, a moral obligation, as the first kid to arrive at the empty neighborhood ball field lot to create the circle and bisecting lines that were used for the daily game of "fox and geese." For the uninitiated, this was a wintertime version of "tag - you're it;" but, you were restricted to running only around the circle and across the lines.

Making "snow angels" was another favorite pastime; but, not for the mom's of the neighborhood! Upon re-entry to the house, you were met with the strictly enforced admonitions - "Take off those wet clothes -hang them on the radiator - knock the snow off those boots - you'll catch your death of cold." Subconsciously, that may be one of the reasons that I migrated South in later life - wasn't about to let any "death by cold" be my final farewell.

The day after Christmas was reserved for playing with and/or bragging about all the presents Santa brought to your house and maybe left under gram and gramps tree, at their house as well, with your name on it. Never did figure out why Santa left unwrapped presents at my house and always wrapped ones, with our names on them, at gram and gramps!

Memory fades; but, I think it was the day after Christmas - about 1948, that "Teddy" was linked to this day and in my minds eye forever.

I don't remember his last name, only that he was about two years older then me, taller by a head and what would be best described then as chubby. He was absolutely the happiest kid I ever knew. Always smiling and never complained; whether someone called him "fatso" or said he couldn't play ball cause he was too slow or any of the myriad cruel tricks foisted on kids of his stature.

Several of us were playing on the snow covered ball field next to my house when Teddy came ambling up, that perpetual smile locked on his face, wearing what could only be described as a lightweight ball jacket, scarf around his neck; but, no hat or gloves. In other words; his usual mid-winter attire.

Insulated as we were in those times, not only from the cold; but, from the knowledge that many "Teddy's" were much less fortunate then we, I asked him, "Aren't you cold Teddy?

"Naw," he said, "I just came from the house."

As we were in the midst of comparing our Christmas loot, one of the other kids asked, "Teddy - what did you get for Christmas?"

His indefatigable smile brightening even more, Teddy said, "A pair of gloves, socks and an orange."

Laughter immediately rang out and the kidding started in earnest; but, Teddy - smiling as always - insisted that the aforementioned presents were the sum total of his Christmas gifts.

I didn't join in the laughter - I didn't question the truthfulness of what he said - I was stunned and suddenly feeling very guilty. How could anyone receive those few simple gifts and be so happy about it?

I wanted to cry; but, when you're a grown up eight year old that kind of reaction was reserved for falling off your bike, getting hit with a baseball or some other typical heroic deed.

The gang soon departed for other daily pursuits and I went into the house and told my mom about Teddy.

She explained to me that everybody doesn't always get what they want - that sometimes it's the littlest of presents or kindnesses that make you happiest - and especially, at this time of year, giving could make you feel better then receiving.

I went to the living room, picked one of my presents from under the tree, went out and gave it to Teddy. I told him it was left at my house by mistake.

Never saw Teddy much after that Christmas. Think his family moved soon after the holidays.

I often think of Teddy at Christmastime - can still see that wonderful smile on his face.

Learned a whole lot more, that day after my eighth Christmas, then I knew at the time.

Never forgot that day - never will. ~ Richard Taylor, (Grn Mt Man)


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