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Forget the tree, its always Christmas
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“Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say ‘Hey man, I love you this many dollars-worth.’”

The great philosopher and poet Michael Scott opined this one Christmas.

I don’t remember how much it cost my parents, but when I tore open the wrapping to see the pirate ship I had circled in the J.C. Penny catalog when I was five, I knew they’d walk the plank for me.

The ship had parts I could move when reenacting battle scenes and though it wasn’t probably meant for use in actual water, it floated well and sank when I wanted it to.  There were canons, little dudes, a cargo hold and tiny plastic gold coins that went in a little treasure chest. It was by far the best Christmas gift that had been given to a child. All that has survived the last 25 years is the chest. Currently it is holding a couple of my baby teeth on the shelf back home. Gross I know, but I just haven’t gotten around to summoning the tooth fairy. 

A few years after the ship, I scolded my brother for not understanding the meaning of Christmas when I opened the box he wrapped for me and found rocks, dirt and a chain. I was furious because I had clearly explained what to buy me yet he defiantly disregarded my instruction.

Then I found the gift card under the rock. I mumbled a thank you.

I’m not so worried anymore about the Christmas gift thing on the 25th. I would hesitate to use the word “maturity” as a self-modifier, but my perspective has certainly changed. My idea of Christmas had broadened and is no longer confined to a section of the calendar.

Last January when my brother, his wife and baby met mom and me in Seattle for mom’s birthday, my nephew didn’t poop or cry around me. No diaper changing — the perfect present. Who cares that it was a month late?

In March mom swapped Alaska Airline miles for a ticket home so I could steelhead fish my home river last spring break. The fly line froze in the guides and I didn’t catch any, but those brutally quiet 30-degree mornings standing in the sleepy water was just what I wanted.

In April when I was at a BBQ at The Fly Shop in Redding, the Simms representative was so impressed with the abuse I put my Simms fishing hat through, he gave me a new camouflage one.

Merry Christmas in late April indeed.

The Upper Sacramento, Stanislaus, Thorne and Klawock rivers were all very generous this year, giving and only taking out my legs once in a while when they needed a good laugh at the expense of my dryness.

In July my buddy Matt got married in New York, so while I had to pay for the trip back there, the gift of a college reunion was one of the highlights of the last few years.

I had never had a fish break my rod before until the biggest brown trout of my life took care of that in November. Season’s greetings Jeff, here’s a story all fishermen must have.

Oh yes, 2011 provided the gift of a good life. There have been plenty of rocks and dirt in the past twelve months, but they pale in comparison to the generosity of the family, friends and fish.

That leaves little to distract from the true meaning of Christmas in these final days.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail