First of all, let me say that this is one of the happiest days of the year. My wonderful wife, Cheri, has her birthday today. We have already showered the day with blueberry muffins, egg bake, a zillion presents, and later on we will decorate the Christmas tree. A wonderful day, to be sure. I won’t tell you how old she is, but it rhymes with “mixty-done.”
I’ve looked back and I can’t recall if I ever told you about the gyroscope. I’ve written 447 pages since June 30, so that’s a lot of bilge water to wade through (I’ll let you look up that one…) anyway, don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one…
I’m sure I mentioned that when we were little, each sibling (of the seven of us) bought each other a present for Christmas. The presents were really an excuse to get to open up yet one more goodie on a goodie-overdose Christmas morning, but they were very small, and I expect no one spent more than $3.00 for all six presents. The most popular gifts were found on that one particular aisle of Brown’s Five and Ten store, which had the best toys around for under 50 cents. At Christmas, you could be guaranteed to both receive and give Slinkys, superballs, Wheelos, and of course, the ever present gyroscope, which was particularly important, because you were getting a toy and a marvelous scientific instrument. Basically, you wound a string on a little metal post with a wheel on it, and it was inside another metal cage that did not spin. You then would pull the string as hard you could, sending the inside wheel spinning wildly, all the while holding on the metal cage. It would stand upright on the floor, or on a stretched out string, or on your tipped finger. It was crazy fun in the 1960s. Of course, eventually it would run out of steam, and no longer be able to keeps its balance, and it would fall to the floor, often on top of your toes, which, while it was a toy, it was nonetheless made of steel. Great fun.
The whole gyroscope thing in our family finally faded out, as did the other 50 cent toys. I guess with babysitting jobs and driving delivery for the flower shop, we became affluent. The toys made way for other gifts, and we closed another closet door on our childhood.
However, in 1974, something important happened. My home left me. We were living on the base near Grand Forks, and I had been accepted and registered for college at the University of North Dakota that fall. Dad came home one August day and said, “We are moving to Texas!” I said, “Have a great time, but I’m going to college here…” So the Cross home packed up and moved, and I stayed up, only getting home for the first time at Christmas. If you have experienced anything like what I described, you will know that nothing creates a greater appreciation and sense of reminiscence than getting to go home after four months and getting caught up in the crazy business of a full house at Christmas. Those feelings brought on other remembrances, and although it didn’t happen most likely in 1974, in 1975 I decided to find some of the toys of our childhood to once again grace my sisters with, in part because they were cheap and I had no money.
So, I gave Lisa, my sister, a gyroscope. It was a silly little thing, and after a couple of comments, it was forgotten. Until the next year, when I came home for Christmas and got a present from Lisa. A gyroscope. Actually, THE gyroscope that I had given her the year before. We all laughed, but I carefully saved it, rewrapped it, and it was Lisa’s the next year.
This went on for about another four years, until I was leading a church and Cheri and I couldn’t travel at Christmas all the way to Texas. I never again spent Christmas Day with my family of origin. Still, a few days before Christmas, I got a package from Texas, from Lisa. Inside was that familiar looking square boxed present, but Lisa put a note on it. “I wrapped the gyroscope over last year’s paper – let’s keep doing that!”
Over the years, I imagine the ever-growing wrapped present would be able to serve as an almanac of life, with different years, like 2001, commemorated with the wrapping paper. One year, I was sure that I had sent the thing to Lisa, but she didn’t have it. It seemed like it was gone somewhere. Yet, a few days later, I looked in one drawer for something completely different, and there, nestled in among the sweaters was you-know-what. It was sent off immediately, Now, when the gyroscope comes my way, I intentionally put it in the center cupboard space of my dresser, where I see it about 20 times/year as I get things in and out. It just sits there, probably wondering when it’ll be time to go back to Texas.
So today, with enough peanut brittle made to cover the ones who need it mailed to them, I pulled out the present, wrapped it once again, and then this year, I copied off a full-color picture of the CoVid-19 molecule, and taped it to the top of the present. The time capsule continues. It’s in the box, all sealed up and ready to be mailed tomorrow morning. I’m sure Lisa will be thrilled…
This will make probably the 45th year of trading a gyroscope. It’s a silly, fun and totally intentional addition to our Christmas celebrations. Intending to keep it ongoing has meant that both of us have to care about it, to be conscious of whose turn and where the thing is, and to spend the money to send it back and forth. And it is fun, and a moment to yank us back to our childhood and the 5 and 10 cent store.
Living an intentional life does necessarily mean doing heroic or earthshaking acts that will be written up in the paper. Sometimes it just means being mindfully consistent, and acting to make a difference. That is living a significant life. How will you do that today?
Word for the day: xylopolist. Pronounced zy-LOP-uh-list, it’s of course Greek – those folks just love the “xi” or “xy” words. Xylopolist breaks down into two words: xylo, meaning “wood,” like you would find if you played a xylophone, which must be made of wood, or it’s a different instrument, and polist or poly, which is a state of limited competition in a market, because there are so few sellers of a commodity. A monopoly is when one company basically owns the entire market, or at least Boardwalk and Park Place.
So, a xylopolist is a seller of wood, which granted, is a pretty small market. The next time you need to go to Home Depot or Lowes or some other lumberyard, be sure to greet the agent working there with, “Greetings, Xylopolist! How’s the grain looking today?”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.