Richard DeVoe, one of the members of the Cohoes Library Writing Workshop, introduces work from this group with a Tanka poem (a Japanese verse form) and a prize-winning essay, published in The Daily Gazette. Richard is a lifelong resident of Cohoes and is retired after a 33-year career with the State of New York. In addition to his interest in writing memoir and poetry, he is a musician and singer/songwriter currently in the process of writing and recording a collection of original songs entitled “Attic of Dreams”.
“The Gift” is reprinted here by permission of the author. With the essay's wit and warmth, we say a final goodbye to the holiday season.
“Morning Song” is our blessing to everyone for the New Year: “Sing loud. Rejoice!”
Silence comes to me
When I hear his morning song.
Awake is his tune.
Come join our parade. Sing too.
A new day. Sing loud. Rejoice!
The cold Saturday morning wind hits my ten year old face like the crack of a bat on a hard-thrown pitch. I close the front door and walk down the stairs onto the sidewalk. It's only a week until Christmas and I want to buy Mom something nice. But what? I already got Dad his, a paperback book about fishing that I thought he might like. I bought my eight-year-old sister Kathleen a book where you could cut out paper doll clothes to put on the cardboard girl. My fourteen-year-old brother Tom was getting a pocket knife that I saw in the Army & Navy store. Now I only had Mom left, the toughest decision.
I have to stay within my budget though. I check the pockets of my corduroy pants and my hand rakes through the assortment of change that I've saved up. How much do I have to work with, I think to myself? Well, there's only one way to find out...count it.
As I walk up the street, I duck into the narrow alleyway that separates two houses to get out of the wind and add up the money in my pocket...$1.43. Not much but it will have to do.
I head back onto the sidewalk and begin my journey to Remsen Street, the main shopping district in the city. I'll have lots of stores to check out to find the perfect gift for her. There's Woolworth's, Fishman's, S.S Kresge's, that ladies store Juliette's which I won't go into by myself. I mea, what if one of my friends sees me going in there alone? I'll find something somewhere.
As I head down White Street, I pass by the Hometown Bakery. Boy, I really could go for one of their jelly donuts this morning. I go in and the smells of the sweet treats engulf the room and my nose. I ask the lady behind the counter in the white dress how much it would be for one jelly donut. "Fifteen cents," she says. “O.K. I'll take one,” I answer. Let's see..my budget has now been reduced to $1.28.
When I turn onto Remsen Street, I look up and notice all the Christmas decorations hung across the street from the light poles. Right after Thanksgiving, the city puts them up and lights them for the holiday shoppers. I walk to the end of the block and go into Kresge's. To the right of the entrance is the small lunch counter where the nice lady with hair on her chin works. Eating that donut made me thirsty. I sure could go for a drink. Maybe I'll buy a root beer from the barrel at the end of the counter. “How much for a root beer?” I ask. "Twenty cents,” the bearded lady says. “O.K. I'll take one.” My budget now has been reduced to $1.08. I look around the store but can't find anything for Mom. If she only could use a turtle, they sold them in the back of the store.
Next I go into Fishman's. Nothing really in here for her, I think to myself. Woolworth's is next. Walking down the aisle I notice the display with baseball cards in it. You’ve got to be kidding! Baseball cards in December! My lucky day! I'll buy a pack to see if I can get that Willie May's card that I lost flipping. Let's see, five cents a pack..one pack....$0.05. My budget is now $1.03. O.K., no more fooling around, got to find a present for Mom. I walk to the end of the aisle and turn down the next one where my eye catches the perfect present for her. A bottle of Lavender Bubble Bath and it's only $0.89! I snatch it up, pay for it and head outside back home. Mission accomplished and I have $0.14 left in my budget.
When Christmas morning comes the family gathers to open their presents. I get that catcher's mitt I told Dad about that was in the National Auto Store, a transistor radio with an ear piece and some clothes. Dad loves his paperback, Kathleen her paper dolls and Tom his knife. Mom opens her gift from me. "Just what I wanted and need," she says and smiles at Dad. Later on we gather with the rest of the family and celebrate this special day.
Looking back, I think how much simpler and less commercial Christmas was then. Now, even before Halloween, the stores get decorated and advertise non-stop. The radio stations even start playing Christmas music right after Election Day. You must find that special gift now before it's no longer available.
I found my special gift through the eyes of a ten-year-old child...the gift of a Mother's love.
Oh, I forgot to mention… the apartment we lived in at the time didn't have a bathtub.