As an adult, I admit that it is sometimes difficult to remember the gifts I received for Christmas past. These days, I have clearer memories of the gifts I gave to friends and family than of the gifts I received.
But, for me, the best Christmas gifts are the ones you don’t expect; the ones that are truly surprises that elicit the biggest smiles and cheers (or tears) of joy.
I received a lot of beautiful gifts as a child and was always excited that Christmas Day was coming. No matter what my interests are in any given year, Santa Claus always delivered on Christmas Day, whether it was sportswear or wrestling and Star Wars action figures.
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I received one of those surprise gifts from my dad: a BB pistol. I don’t remember making it my mission to get one for Christmas like Ralphie Parker did in “A Christmas Story”, but when I opened it I was really in awe and it’s a gift that I spent many hours enjoying.
Three years ago, I received another surprise gift when my wife gave me a record player.
It was really a surprise because it was really unexpected. On a trip upstate that fall, we stopped by a bookstore where several record players were on display and I stopped for a few minutes to look at them.
As wrapped gifts piled up under the tree in the days leading up to Christmas, a large box appeared with my name on it. I was sure I knew what was in it, but I was wrong when I unwrapped the present that I thought was in the box earlier that night.
It left me wondering what was in the big box and what was in the flat square packages that my wife had asked me to open last. When the time came, I ripped off the wrapping paper on the large box to reveal a new record player and bluetooth speaker. The flat and square wrappers turned out to be records and I spent a few weeks shooting Beatles, Greta Van Fleet, and Metallica albums.
Listening to music has always been one of my favorite ways to relax and grow, I often listened to my parents’ record collection, spending time listening to The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. But as a kid who grew up listening to music on cassettes, CD players and then iPods, vinyl albums, while interesting, seemed a bit dated.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this surprise gift I received three Christmases ago made me give vinyl another look. This giveaway started an interest in vinyl and a quest to add to my collection whenever possible.
Within a month, I visited Noise and Toys in downtown Alpena and came out with at least half a dozen new records. I shopped online and stocked up on new copies of classic albums with gift cards. After a long day of work – which sometimes involved coming home after midnight – I had put on a scrapbook or two to relax.
Vinyl has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, but I like being able to visit a second-hand record store and find great music at a fair price. Since then I’ve made it a point to stop by Noise and Toys about once a month and usually leave with at least one new record.
Whenever I travel and there is a record store nearby, I try to stop if I can, if only to browse for a few minutes. In almost three years since I got the record player, I have a few cases full of albums. Streaming services are incredibly convenient – and I use them frequently – but I have come to appreciate the rich, full sound of an album on vinyl.
I have received a lot of great Christmas gifts over the years, but this record player is one that I enjoy every day and will undoubtedly enjoy for many years to come.