Saturday, December 09, 2006


I thought I'd do it last year, buy a bunch of small things -- like a box of Sucrets, like a pack of Stim-u-dents -- little things that my father used to like when he lived here, little things that don't exist in Hungary where he lives now. I got the idea to send him a box of things like that for Christmas.

I bought one thing for it, one of those round metal tins of small European-looking candies. These were orange flavored and they were right by the register at Deisings where I'd gone for a buttered hard roll to eat on the bus into Manhattan. It was only October and I felt good getting a running start on my father's Christmas present. I never got any further and sometime in February or March I put the candies out on the counter for the workshop. I think Fred at most of them during the week. Now it's Christmas time again. I have just in the last few days begun to let the feeling in, and the idea of this Christmas package to Budapest is floating around as I walk through Eckerds, but I still put it off.

My father never wrote his Christmas cards til after Christmas. It was one of his private rituals each year to go into his office ? there was always a room wherever we were living that held his desk ? and write his cards. I don't know who he sent them to ? people related to his work, I think, mostly -- or what he said to them. My mother, my two sisters and I were not included. I only know what his cards looked like because he showed them to me each year with pride. I never liked them. They were always black and white, an etching or something very serious and adult with his name printed by a printer inside. And he enjoyed telling me that Christmas cards did not have to be sent before Christmas as long as they arrived by January 6.

Last year this theory bought me some time, but then I never got the package out.

I imagined this morning taking a few hours to just focus on it, get it done and out, but the idea went up in my mind like a lazy firework, dying down just as quickly as it went up.

It's a good idea, this Christmas package of little things, but that's all.

Natvar used to say often how he hated good ideas. He meant that he hated people who didn't follow through on their good ideas. He hated it if I suggested a solution to one of our many problems. To him my suggestions were empty words. So worked hard to make everything I thought might help happen. I considered it a spiritual discipline. I honestly thought if I made myself do things I didn't want to do I would be a better person.

I think of sending my aunt and/or my father ? who live together ? a $20 bill. It's not huge in Hungary either, but it's enough, say, for two people to go out for a pretty good dinner. They could do something with twenty bucks and they seem like they would welcome it. But maybe the cash will get stolen before it gets to them. Maybe my father -- if I send it to him -- will lose it on his desk or forget he ever received it. I'm told he's done that. So maybe I should send it to my aunt who would
never lose or misplace a $20 bill. But should I say it's for her, or for him, or for both of them? They are not very friendly. They live together out of necessity. Kind of like my mother and father did. I loathe the idea of joining all the womenfolk and treating my father like a child, but lost money doesn't appeal either.

In Hungary, out in a small, historic town called Eger, we said good-bye to my cousin Laci with whom we had just spent a meaningful twenty-four hours. Out on the street Laci introduced us to his cousin, Andras, a young, dark, good-looking man dressed neatly in black. Andras was driving back to Budapest and would give us a ride. I had never heard of Andras, but it seemed we were distantly related.

He didn't speak much English and seemed to prefer to drive in silence. His car was tiny. I sat in the front, Fred in the back. Andras did say that when he was a little boy my parents sent him a box of colored pencils. It startled and pleased me. He said his little girl, Angela, was turning one that weekend. I vowed to myself to send her some colored pencils. Or crayons. Or paints. Andras would get the reference. I would send her something every year because after several hours I came to like Andras very much even though our words had been few.

But as I walk into town this morning, I think how a one-year-old isn't ready for even crayons yet. So maybe a teddy bear? Or something for the parents? Or the little woolen booties I got for Chantal's baby except that she never let me know when or if the baby was born. Are those booties big enough for a one-year-old?

I remain in present limbo.

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