A Very Singular Spectrum Christmas Story
As a writer, my favorite thing about Christmas has always been the stories. First and foremost, of course, is the wonderful story of Jesus’ birth, one of the most spectacular turning points in God’s incredible tale of redemption. Christmas has also inspired many, many fictional tales of all kinds, from campy TV Christmas specials like “Frosty the Snowman” to books like Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and Elf. So what better way to spend our very first Christmas here at Singular Spectrum than with a Christmas story? Go ahead, have a seat, pour yourselves some hot cocoa, and turn on the Christmas lights. I’ll just step out for a moment to put on my tacky sweater, and when I come back I’ll tell you all about the year that I got an enormous box of Pez dispensers for Christmas…
It was several years ago, about that time of year when parents ask their kids what they want for Christmas, and I knew that I, too, would soon have to face the annual conundrum once again. That particular year, my Mom was fascinated by the prospect of doing all of her gift-related shopping (and buying large amounts of beads for some unexplained purpose) on eBay, and one day in the course of her regular auction-hounding she made an off-handed remark that brought an end to all of my pondering and speculation: “Wow, Pez dispensers are quite the collector’s item. They’re worth quite a bit of money if you wait long enough to sell them.”
A metaphorical light bulb went on somewhere in the jumbled recesses of my young brain. Everywhere I went for the next several days, Pez dispensers seemed to follow me. They were at Wal-Mart, at Meijer, at the dollar store, dozens of colorful plastic rectangles with heads shaped like Yoda or Kermit the Frog or Mr. Incredible. They were so cheap, just a dollar or two apiece; it would be well within Mom and Dad’s means to get me a few dozen of them for Christmas, especially if that was all I asked for, yet if I waited for just a decade or two those little candy holders would translate to a veritable fortune. All I had to do was forgo the novelties and gadgets for this one Christmas and I would be on the fast track to the good life.
So when the time came and Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I smiled and exclaimed, “I want Pez dispensers!”
“Oh, for your stocking?” Mom replied cheerfully.
I shook my head. She wasn’t seeing the big picture here. After all, you don’t become a successful collector/investor with a few stocking stuffers here and there – you’ve got to go all in. “No, I mean all I want for Christmas this year is Pez dispensers.”
Mom looked at me for a moment with a look of quizzical amusement on her face, clearly not fully comprehending the brilliance of my incredible financial prowess, then she shrugged and said, “Well, okay. If that’s what you want.”
I assured her that it was, and when Christmas finally came around, I was overjoyed to find that not only was my stocking packed with Pez dispensers, but the box under the tree with my name on it was full to the brim with the individually wrapped plastic figurines, too, along with enough Pez candy to put me in a sugar coma for a month. I took the enormous box of Pez dispensers back to my room after expressing my gratitude to my parents for securing me a shot at becoming independently wealthy, then I started sorting through them to see just how many there were.
I was thrilled to see several complete sets of characters in the box, like Winnie the Pooh characters and Marvel superheroes. I was pretty new to the whole collector gig, but I was sure I’d heard somewhere that sets are a good thing. As I sifted through my treasure trove of spring-loaded beauties, I couldn’t help but notice that all of the packages contained not only a dispenser, but two packs of candy. Another light bulb came on – people collect the dispensers, but they don’t need the candy, too! It was a win-win situation: I could have unlimited riches twenty years down the road and a ridiculous amount of vaguely- flavored sugar pellets here and now to boot!
I ripped open the packages one by one and poured their contents onto the floor, separating the dispensers and the Pez into separate piles. Once I had all of the candy set aside, I put the Pez dispensers back into the box and carried it back out to the living room so that I could show everyone how impressive they all looked. The first person who saw them was Dad, but instead of looking overwhelmed at how much potential wealth I’d managed to accrue into one box, he tilted his head and asked, “Weren’t you planning on selling those?”
I smiled and nodded, sure that any minute now he would catch up with my master plan and applaud me for my foresight. He tilted his head the other way. “You opened them,” he observed. I smiled and nodded again, this time a little hesitantly. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but judging by the tone of his voice it wasn’t going to be “Congratulations!” or “Can I have some Pez?”
When he didn’t say anything, I glanced around and asked, “So?…”
“Well, they’re worthless now,” he said in the blunt way that only Dad can.
The light bulb in my head refused to give even the slightest glimmer. I tilted my head just as he un-tilted his and said, “What?”
That’s when I learned a brand-new official-collector’s term: New in package. I was understandably both horrified and confused to find that the box of future cash in my arms had suddenly morphed into a box of unimportant, big-headed, hinge-jawed pieces of bright plastic with tiny feet all because they weren’t still sealed in crinkly plastic bags. Clearly the collecting/investing world was a bigger, more confusingly arbitrary place than I had ever imagined, and I was starting to doubt that I wanted to venture into it any further, so I cut my losses, took my enormous box of Pez dispensers back to my room, filled them all with candy, and dispensed away.
My barely-formed dreams of collecting/investing may have died an ignoble death that Christmas, but I don’t really miss them. After all, Christmas isn’t about money or investing or the gifts that you get or even the ones that you give. It’s about commemorating God’s unmatchable gift of love to us by loving on those around us and spending some special time with those we love. It’s about setting a little time aside every year to celebrate all the good things that God’s given us and to make the kind of memories that stick with us long after the cookies and lights and enormous boxes of Pez dispensers are gone. So from all of us here at Singular Spectrum to all of you, I want to wish you a merry Christmas. Thanks for all of your love and support, and for helping to make this little experiment a whole lot of fun. Oh, and for putting up with this atrocious sweater during the story. Hope you enjoyed it.