Rich in what really counts

Tony Lamke - Guest columnist

Editor’s Note: Tony Lamke is a resident of Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington who wrote many past sports articles for the News Journal. The story in the second half of this column is from his book “My Pal Grubby.”

Christmas shopping. I don’t love it, I don’t hate it. I do question the sanity of it.

If I thought that everyone who is running around had the right intention, maybe my attitude would be more positive. But how many times have you heard, “I hate shopping for so-and-so. He (or she) is so hard to shop for and they take back everything I guy them!”

I know the merchants count on the holiday season to get their bottom lines in the black — thus “Black Friday.” I do understand that, but I heard recently that many people are still paying the bills from last Christmas. Something is very wrong there.

If you love this frenzy, more power to you. If finding the “perfect gift” for Aunt Maud and Uncle Willie is your idea of great fun, enjoy!

Maybe I’m just showing my age. I kinda like the homemade drawings I get from my great-grandkids. But I don’t need another sweater or tie … and I hate taking them back!

I want to tell you about a Christmas past, not so long ago that I have to say, “Once upon a time …” — but it’s from when I was still in grade school.

My pal Grubby came from a family of 12 with no bathroom. Many times he came to school with mud in his ears from football practice the night before, thus his nickname became “Grubby.”

His family struggled financially, but they were rich in the things that counted. I didn’t realize then, but the love in that family was very strong, and it started with his mother. She was a combination of Mother Hubbard, Ma Kettle and Olivia Walton wrapped into one beautiful person.

The entire family bought or made small gifts for each other at Christmastime. I was there many Christmases … a wild but loving scene.

On one of those Christmases, Grubby wanted a bike. Believe me, his was on its last spoke. It was during World War II and bikes were almost non-existent.

Grubby’s mom called my dad, who knew the owner of a hardware store. He had a slightly used bike that dad bought and he cleaned it up as best he could. She would pay my dad a dollar a week from October to December. Dad did a great job, and the bike looked good as new.

On Christmas morning, I was instructed to ride the bike in the dark to Grubby’s house and put it on the porch. I did as I was told and waited in the cold, across the street. I had to see this, and I was not disappointed.

When he came out and saw the bike, before he went to it, he turned and hugged his mother. They were both crying, and so was I.

Christmas is for kids, and I have never forgotten that Christmas.

The anticipation between Thanksgiving and Christmas back in those days was almost too much.

It’s too bad we became adults.

Tony Lamke

Guest columnist