Of all the toys that I got for Christmas, my favorite has to be the yellow dump truck. I was 8 years old, and it was the first time that my mother actually had us pick out what we wanted for Christmas. Before then, we used to ask and beg for what we wanted, and we hoped that our parents would get it for us. Of course, we didn't always get what we wanted, but what we did get was still awesome. What kid doesn't like getting toys for Christmas? Any toy is way better than getting socks and underwear--you can get clothes any time of the year, no special occasion required.
I remember being so excited going to the store. It was a rare treat. It's not often that my mother would take us to the stores. The few times we did go to the stores, my two brothers and I were pretty rowdy and often ran around in the stores. Even though we knew we'd get a spanking for being rambunctious in the stores, we just couldn't resist acting wild. There were just too many shiny objects grabbing our attention and so many racks of clothes that tempted us to play and hide seek under them. And when you're just a young boy full of energy, you just want to play and have fun exploring new places.
I was really excited and happy about going to the store. We knew we were going to pick out presents. Our mother had told us so, and she also expected us to be on our best behavior if we wanted our presents. It was really hard for the three of us to keep still and not run around. But we did, because it was getting near Christmas and we so wanted to pick our gifts. As we rode the bus into town, we had smiles plastered on our faces and kept laughing every time we looked at each other. My mother smiled at us every now and then. I remember thinking, Wow, this is such a great day. I was just so happy to be doing something fun with the people that I luved.
When we got off the bus, we all held hands and crossed the parking lot and headed into the large store. It was full of people doing their shopping. I remember the store decorations--bright red and yellow bows with green wreaths and garlands in the windows and on the walls. A large Christmas tree--decked out with tinsel and shining, colorful ornaments and twinkling lights--stood tall and pretty by the front counter. Cheerful holiday songs were playing in the store.
My mother walked us down to the toy aisle and told us to go down the aisle and pick out what we wanted. It felt like a dream! My brothers and I were giddy with happiness as we took our time walking down the aisle. There were just so many great toys! And they all looked fun. But we could only pick out one toy that we really wanted. So we needed to take our time and really think hard about what toy we wanted for Christmas.
Halfway down the aisle, I stopped as my brothers kept moving on, looking at all the wonderful toys. There, on the bottom shelf, I saw it. It was a yellow dump truck, with battery operated flashing sirens. I was drawn to it. It shone so bright and I reached out to touch its box, imagining myself playing with it, filling it with rocks and stuff that I could push around before dumping them. I felt my heart beat faster at the excitement of finding such a great toy. It seemed so amazing and special.
I confess though, that a small part of me wanted to keep looking down the aisle to see what other great toys I could find. So I reluctantly followed my brothers and checked out the rest of the toys in the aisle. My brothers were excited at finding remote controlled cars. And they were pretty cool and fun, and I wanted one, too. But I was still drawn to that yellow dump truck. So I went back to it to see if I still wanted that or get a remote controlled car. That yellow dump truck still shone bright for me, and it made me feel happy just to look at it. I knew for sure then that this is what I wanted for Christmas.
We picked out our toys and showed our mother. She smiled and led us to the counter, where she paid for them and had them gift wrapped. My brothers and I couldn't stop smiling gleefully at each other and thanked our Mom, hugged her real tight before we left the store. We spent the day going clothes shopping; we managed to behave ourselves as we tried on different clothes and shoes. We stopped for ice cream before we took the bus home, each of us holding a shopping bag. And when we got home, we put the presents under the Christmas tree. It was such a wonderful day, just pure joy.
When Christmas came, my brothers and I were just so excited and eager to finally open our presents and play with our toys. It was more fun than we had imagined. I remember my brothers laughing as they raced their remote controlled cars. I laughed when that yellow dump truck's sirens went off and the lights flashed as it drove on the floor. I remember being amazed when at the push of a button, it stopped moving and started lifting its back, dumping the contents that I had piled in the cargo bed. I remember the content smile on my mother's face. She looked so happy. We were all happy that day.
Over the next few years, I played with that yellow dump truck. I spent many hours imagining myself working on some site, carrying and emptying cargo. Even without batteries for the sirens and flashing lights, I still luved pushing that yellow dump truck around, emptying its bed. I took very good care of it. I kept it clean and made sure to put it away when I was done playing with it.
And when I got older and stopped playing with children's toys, I put that dump truck on a high shelf in my room. By the time I was in high school, I couldn't remember the last time I played with it. Yet I still cherished it. It still had magic for me. When I looked at it, it still shined brightly for me, and it still made me happy, still made me smile fondly. That yellow dump truck was special. Whenever I'd feel sad or frustrated or lost, I just had to touch that yellow dump truck, hold it in my hands, and I'd remember that feeling of happiness I got when I first played with it. And somehow, I knew that things were going to be all right; that I'd get through somehow, someway, and I was going to be okay.
The Christmas I got that yellow dump truck was the first Christmas without my Dad. He had passed away that year, and it was such a terrible and sad time for me and my family. I remember crying at night, when everyone else was asleep, because I really missed my dad. I remember catching my Mom crying a few times when she thought she was the only one awake; that only made me cry more. I did not think that I would be happy again, and I was angry at just how unfair life was. I hated feeling that way, and I hated knowing that there was nothing I could do to change it.
So the day my mother took us to the store to pick our Christmas presents was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the first time that I did not think of my Dad and feel sad. It was the first time in a long time that I actually felt really good and happy. And that Christmas, when I played with that yellow dump truck, I remember feeling so alive, so thankful, and so happy. Seeing my mother smile and happy made me feel good and truly joyful. It gave me hope that things were going to be all right. And that yellow dump truck was the symbol of that hope, that no matter how tough things had become, we'd find a way to go on, to survive, to be happy again.
That was also the last Christmas that I was truly a child. The death of my father had made me more aware of life--its fragility, its brevity, and its preciousness. That was the last Christmas that I looked forward to getting presents with childhood wonder and excitement. I became more interested in giving presents, making others feel happy. I stopped expecting presents, because it was truly more fun for me to do nice things for others. I still got some wonderful presents after that Christmas, but none of them gave me quite the same happiness that I felt when I got that yellow dump truck.
When I left home to live on my own, that yellow dump truck was still perched on the shelf. I thought about taking it with me, but I sheepishly realized that it would seem kind of childish. But I also thought that it somehow just belonged on that shelf in my room. It was part of my life for so long, it just felt right leaving it at home. My last night home, in a lull before the excitement of leaving, I remember taking that yellow dump truck down and holding it one more time. It still had its magic; still made me smile; still made me feel happy. And I realized then that as scared (and excited) as I was to start a new life, to venture into the unknown future, I would be okay. I would be fine.
Years later, my mother and I were talking on the phone when she mentioned that one of my nephews was asking about the yellow dump truck. I was surprised. I hadn't thought about that yellow dump truck in some time. But thinking about it immediately made me smile, made me feel warm and joyful inside. I recalled my nieces and nephews would often come into my room and just stare at the yellow dump truck sitting on the shelf. Most times, I was nice and brought it down to let them play with it. But I just couldn't part with it. Not then. I needed it and I cherished it because it meant so much to me, more than I could explain. It wasn't just a toy--it was my hope, my happiness, my childhood wonder.
But as I talked with my Mom, I realized that maybe it was time to let that yellow dump truck go. I was pretty sure it would make my nephew happy. And it had given me so much joy over the years that it almost felt selfish to keep it on that shelf, rather than letting someone else enjoy it. So I told my mother to go ahead and give it to my nephew. She was surprised that I wanted to give it away; she'd always known that I was really fond of that yellow dump truck. But I told her that I was sure; I told her that the yellow dump truck brought me so much happiness, and perhaps it's time someone else got to feel some of that happiness.
I never saw that yellow dump truck again. Truth be told, I do miss it sometimes. When I went home to spend some time with my mother in her last days, I stayed in my old room. I remember not being able to sleep that first night, just laid awake in bed, just as I did many years ago when I was younger, listening music while a gentle breeze blew through the open window. I looked at the shelf and I suddenly realized that the yellow dump truck wasn't there anymore. For a second, I felt sad, missing its comfort and the joy it brought me. I thought, I could really use it now.
But then I realized that I still had those happy memories of that Christmas with me, memories that the yellow dump truck held for me. And thinking about those memories made me smile, made me happy, made feel like I was going to be all right. I knew that my mother would be passing on soon, and it would be a terrible and sad ordeal. It was going to be a painful experience. Yet, I knew that I would survive; I would go on; I would be fine. I had those happy memories to give me hope, to make me smile again, to know that I would be okay, live to find happiness again.
I have received so many wonderful Christmas presents over the years. But I still remember that yellow dump truck. It was a very special gift, because it meant so much to me. I miss it, and there are times when I wish I still had it. But I know that the truly important thing is that I still have those precious, happy memories of that Christmas when I got that yellow dump truck. They are what make me smile, make me feel joy, and make me think fondly of those I luv. So long as I remember them, I'll never lose them, I'll always have hope. And maybe in a way, I'll always have that yellow dump truck, because sometimes, hope is a yellow dump truck that brings happiness and love.
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