When I was in grade school, I had the chance to star in my school’s Christmas program, though I wasn’t the kind of kid teachers usually wanted in the limelight. My hair was too long, my glasses a tad too thick, my marks in citizenship too low. The simple fact was I knew the lines and no one else did. The role was that of an elf-like mouse, and the kid who held the part for the week of morning practice got sick on Wednesday before the show’s Thursday opening. The call went out for a new mouse, and I answered it.
While I knew the part from my time sitting in the choir, I still needed to study it. I stayed up that Wednesday until midnight with my parents, reading and re-reading the mouse lines. The next day, when the kid didn’t show up for school, my place as his program stand-in was a virtual certainty, and I got to spend huge chunks of the day practicing in the library. Despite an initial nonchalance towards a speaking part in the program, once given the opportunity I wanted to shine. So that night, when the original star’s mom called just before my understudy debut and said he would be able to perform after all, I was pretty let down.
That’s when my mom brought out the giant, oversized Super-Hero Holiday Grab Bag (Marvel Treasury #1). She’d picked up the biggest comic-book I had ever seen at the Corner Drug Store and had planned to give it to me after the show. It was, she said, her way of saying how proud they were of me for working so hard on such short notice.
I didn’t have to unwrap it, and it never found its way under the tree, but to this day, 40-plus years later, it’s simply my BEST. CHRISTMAS. PRESENT. EVER.