Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

Christmas gratitude

I know it is better to give than to receive, especially at Christmas. However, I have many more memories of gifts that I received than ones I gave.

Maybe I was too materialistic as a child. When the Christmas catalogs arrived, I would spend hours leafing through the toy sections. Some of the toys were pictured with smiling children, and I imagined how happy those toys could make me.

But I was also very conscious of the cost. I don’t know if my parents put a spending cap on Christmas or whether I just understood that there were limits. My mother oversaw the gift buying and she was budget-conscious. We were a family of modest means, so she had to be. The corner-cutting sometimes left my brother and I disappointed. One year I wanted a drum set, but there was only a single snare drum next to the Christmas tree. My older brother wanted a guitar, but got a ukulele instead.

We knew our parents were doing their best, but it was hard not to feel let down. But I also felt guilty for wanting more than they could provide. Christmas can be complicated for a child.

But there were other times my folks nailed it. I was a huge fan of the Washington football team (still the Redskins back then) and I wanted a jersey … a real jersey. They were not easy to find in those days. Christmas morning, there it was, a maroon #47 jersey, defensive back Jim Shorter.

The jersey was way too big, which was fine … I wore it for years and eventually grew into it.

Another year I wanted a “Big Bruiser Super Highway Service Tow Truck,” and I got it. The toy drained batteries, four D-batteries at a time, but it was great fun while the power lasted, steering it around the floor of our home while a model of a wrecked truck dangled from the winch hook.

I remember a Christmas when I wasn’t sure what to ask for and my parents defaulted by giving me a baseball glove. Instead of being grateful, I sulked. I still remember overhearing my mother tell a friend that “Hoppy didn’t have a very good Christmas.” To this day, I feel shame when I think about that.

One of the best gifts came when I was at WVU studying journalism. The Watergate scandal was ongoing, and I asked for the book “The Final Days” by Woodward and Bernstein. I was surprised to find it under the tree on Christmas morning, but even more surprised to find the authors’ autographs inside. My mother had used a friend connection and jumped through some hoops to get those signatures. More than 40 years later, I still have the book and, more importantly, a memory I associate with a mother’s love.

So, yes, it is better to give than to receive, but it is also OK to receive, especially when it is done with humility and gratitude. I haven’t always done that, but Christmas is a good time to revisit those memories with heart-felt appreciation … even if it is a little late.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.