Most Thoughtful Gifts

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It took a couple of years of packages that never arrived and frustrations over extremely high shipping costs to convince my sister and I that annual holiday exchanges between Kansas and Thailand were more trouble than they were worth.  Since 2008 or so, the majority of our exchanges have been the online variety.

But every once in a while, I’m shocked by some morsel in the morning mail delivery.  Whatever it may be, it always reaffirms my belief that my sister is the smartest and most thoughtful person currently living (having inherited those qualities from our dearly-departed mother).  This year, Marilyn truly outdid herself…

I don’t know how she does it as mail deliveries are fairly unpredictable here – staffing, weather, transportation, and mail theft seeming to be the determinate factors – but the past two years I have received a package from my sister precisely on Christmas Day.  This year’s bubble envelope was sitting propped-up on my guesthouse’s reception desk when I returned from work (no holiday days off for me in December other than the King’s Birthday and four days at New Year’s). 

The first thing I pulled out of the envelope was a Kansas City Royals t-shirt (my family lives on the Kansas side of the state line there).  It’s pretty awesome that the Royals made it all the way to the World Series despite their losing in the end.  The last time they were in the Series was the year after I graduated high school (1985).

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Next up was a Costco “1 Hour Photo” envelope containing a few surprises.  There were two photos of my nephew, Spencer.  I’m amazed at how old he looks now – he will graduate high school next year!  For contrast, the photo below was taken about the time I arrived in Thailand; I haven’t seen Spencer since the summer of 2008 when he visited Phuket and I miss him (and the remainder of my family) dearly.

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The truly shocking photo, however, was the one featured at the head of this article.  Published in the 26 July 1946 edition of The Oakland Post-Enquirer, it features the only brother team in that year’s soap box derby race held near the old Oakland Stadium – Edward and Ronald Jochim, my uncle and father.  Dad talked about this photo for as long as I can remember and my sister spent years searching microfilm in the archives of Bay Area newspapers to find it and finally achieved success this year.  Now, I need to set her on the task of finding the photo of Dad and I that appeared on the front page of the Dallas morning newspaper when I was three or four years old…

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The next items out of the envelope were a pair of DVD’s which I set aside, thinking they were photos and/or video from my sister’s trip to Italy and Greece this past summer.  I figured I’d watch those a bit later, after a Christmas movie or two.  I then found a nice postcard she’d purchased in Montenegro (Marilyn has become even more of a world traveler than myself!) and then something truly thoughtful (although everything else falls into that category as well):  a packet of 250 all-different Greek stamps

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As the enclosed letter explained, my sister found this in a little shop in Athens and thought I’d like them.  The interesting part is that I was on a bit of a hiatus on my stamp collecting activities at the time and hadn’t even talked about stamps with Marilyn for many, many years.  It’s only been in the last month that I’ve become extremely philatelically-minded once again so this was an unusual choice for my sister to make.  In fact, I don’t recall her ever buying stamps for me before and I’ve collected off-and-on for over forty years!  She truly does have a sixth sense.

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I took some time out this morning to put the stamps into a stock book and scan the pages; it makes it easier to catalogue them as well as see exactly what I have.  While I was aware of the Hermes Heads issues in the latter half of the nineteenth century, I’d never really considered collecting the stamps of Greece before.  Looking at these, however, has sparked a genuine interest as the subject matter portrayed on many of them have long held my fascination – Greek history and mythology, the Olympic games, archeological artifacts, various watercraft and native costumes, etc.  Yes, this is a nice start to a new collection for me…

Opening an enclosed sealed envelope brought another surprise – last year’s family New Year’s card.  I’d thought it had gotten lost in the mail (as happens to so many things destined to Thailand).  At any rate, better late than never…

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Finally, I got around to reading Marilyn’s letter included in the envelope and discovered the most thoughtful item of all (possibly the most thoughtful thing she’s ever done and this is one extremely thoughtful lady!).  She wrote:

“Years ago I stole all of Mom’s and Dad’s old 8mm movies and had them put on VHS.  Now nobody uses VHS so I had them put on DVD.  I had copies made for you, Dad and Dave Jochim [our cousin].  They go back as far as when Dad was about 11 and go up to when we were kids…”

I immediately dropped EVERYTHING and inserted the first DVD into my computer.  The first images were of our father mowing the lawn in the summer of 1946 and then building the very same soap box derby racer seen in the photo at the start of this article.  Some of the videos were ones I’d seen before when I was a young boy (perhaps the last time I saw any of this footage was thirty or more years ago).  But so much of it I’d never seen before; I’m going to need to ask my sister and dad about some of the locations captured on 8mm film all those years ago…

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I don’t recall seeing ANY of the footage contained on the second DVD.  It starts off with some footage which I’d place around the fall of 1966 when I was aged just ten months or so.   About nine minutes into this disc, I got to watch myself opening presents during my first-ever Christmas at home (I was born twenty days before the holiday the previous year but I don’t believe I’d been adopted yet). 

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Amongst the many video highlights from my own childhood include the following year’s Christmas with my sister as a six-month-old toddler (a super-chubby one!), an early family visit to New Mexico (I have no memory of going to Bandelier and Taos before I moved there many years later but it’s right there on the video), communing with lions and baboons at a wildlife sanctuary, and a visit aboard the RMS Queen Mary.  Thus far, I’ve skipped around a bit on both DVD’s but intend to watch them in their entirety when I have my holiday next week.

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This has truly been the best Christmas I’ve had in many years thanks to the truly thoughtful items in Marilyn’s plain padded envelope.  I miss my family very much but such a gift does make them seem a bit closer in spirit if not in distance.

Cheers and Happy New Year!


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