I never got a gun for Christmas when I was young, in large part because I wasn’t interested in guns. I’ve heard about other people getting guns under the tree, both as kids and adults, and it always sounded magical. It finally happened to me. It was worth the wait.

The last few New Year’s Days, my wife and I have gone over to have dinner with a couple who were friends of my parents from the time I was 10 years old. Rudy and my dad hunted together. Dad gave Rudy his first gun dog. My father is gone, and my mother no longer lives in town, so now Rudy and Gloria come to our house for Thanksgiving, and my wife and I go there on New Year’s Day. It’s a nice tradition.

They set an incredible table. Rudy is Italian and cares deeply about food and drink. Gloria is a terrific cook.

So, we finish dinner and we can hardly move. We drink some Strega. Rudy says, “Did you ever see A Christmas Story, where the dad tells Ralphie to look behind the desk?”

I nod. Everyone has seen A Christmas Story and knows that Ralphie finds the BB gun behind the desk.

“Look behind that chair,” Rudy told me. The chair is a big easy chair in the corner of the dining room.

I’m thinking, Is Rudy giving me his BB gun? I know he has his old Red Ryder from when he was a boy. He refinished the wood and has it hanging over his bar downstairs.

There’s a gun shaped thing in a cheap vinyl case with a bow on it behind the chair. I pull the gun out, and see that it’s a 1958 20-gauge Browning Superposed skeet gun, just like the one my mom used to own.

Rudy knew I always wanted a gun like Mom’s, which she sold back before I cared about guns. He had owned this one since 1970 and never fired it. He said, “I’m 83, I’ve got no kids, I’ve got all these guns and nothing to do with them. I want this to go to someone who feels the same way about shotguns that I do.”

My wife, who isn’t even a gun person, had tears streaming down her cheeks. I was overwhelmed and pretty close to sniffling myself.

It’s one of those gifts you can’t possibly repay, so I only hope I can pay it forward some day, because I can imagine the only thing better than getting such a heartfelt gift is giving one. Meanwhile, I’ll have my new Christmas gun out next week for the last few days of the season, and if I put anything’s eye out, it will be on purpose.





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