The Strawberry Top

True story - first published 2001

No matter how much we love the Winter Holidays with all the trimmings, there is the validity of Christmas 'stocking stuffers'  - a refreshing escape from the "too-much-ness" of things.  Stocking stuffers and similar "little-gift" observances renew the awareness that the true holiday spirit is a small and shining moment that connects people in light !   A funny little thing can be like that! 

Stocking Stuffers shopping 1975, I purchased a little wooden strawberry-shaped top.  Three inches high, in the shape of a strawberry, a simple green spinning stick protruding like a stem, it was painted bright red-pink, with green strawberry seeds dotted all over it.  The Strawberry Top cost all of seventy-five cents as part of a last-minute holiday closeout, at a friend's decorator shop Winter Holiday sale. 

The merry little top found its place atop one of our Christmas Stockings and with lots of brightly wrapped gifts under the tree, for our "very-good-all-year-long" son and daughter (7 and 5 at the time).   But, on Christmas morning, after the thrill of the opening of gifts and glee and hugs all around, our children were fascinated by the mirthful little top!  They loved their gifts! Many of them had been high on their list of fervent hopes and wishes-come-true!  But the Strawberry top was the surprise, a charmer that won center stage for their attention!

Each Christmas, ever after, the top was among the first of the trimmings to be brought out from storage and we all became gleeful at the thought of spinning that tiny Strawberry Top, as an effective ritual, signaling the start of holiday celebrations - each year more a family tradition !  

A wonderful top! 
An amazing top! 
A remarkable spinning strawberry top! 

When our teething Brittany Spaniel pup, Apples, put a toothmark in it, we held our breath, at top-spinning time: would it still spin? A wooden top depends on a delicate balance.   But it spun as merrily as ever!  And with Apples' toothmark in it, we loved it all the more !  The marvelous top would spin and spin, and spin and spin - and spin  for more than a full minute - and longer, sometimes !   My sci-tech husband was impressed with its aerodynamics!  Each time, expressing a strong and merry life at the Winter Holidays!   Its dynamic a family-as-one symbol...it's heart shape - OUR hearts as one.

More years passed and never without our "Strawberry Top Moment", but then: 

Our children were in their early teens, the summer their Father died suddenly, and soon, that first Christmas following without him - except for his spirit, with us, always !   Gramma joined the children and I for a trip away at Thanksgiving - it was too soon and too intense to make our at-home dinner without our master turkey carver!     But the draw of our own home and its charms and devotion to  the traditions and observances moved us to give Christmas a chance.  We began bringing out the boxes of things and planning the days ahead.

The Strawberry top achieved a mighty stature that year - the children, so solemn , at my side ... no jumping and giggling but all of is hushed for the one who was not there.  

Then came the quick and light and firm twirl to the now slightly-worn wooden stem, and off it went !    IMPERTUBABLY , merrily, steadily, and kind of dramatically sharing its magic with us!

 "I guess we're ok", I said, my words reflected in our children's faces - as that top spun and spun on the counter - downright plucky!  "The Strawberry Top still spins ! " , our triumphant cheer ! And "Sure enough",  the challenge of painful loss only meant, that the  delight returned with a new worth! 

Even after the children grew up and "flew up" to fine life on their own, the Strawberry Top remained a focus for us at holiday visits !   By then it had become a true barometer, of a sort... life changes, but love is eternal !   

Our grownup daughter made an emerald green velvet pouch for the strawberry top, with bright red velvet lining, and tiny clear crystal beads, like snowflakes, on the outside, and a satin cord drawstring to close the pouch and protect it snugly.  Now, no matter where we did Christmas,  our top could come along, and make the key moment with "we-three" together and loving one another for another wonderful year!   A true bit of magic:  when a strawberry top finds your family circle, it is special.

And then, around 2008 - Gone!   The top disappeared, somewhere along the path of holiday travels.  We searched  "high and low", and over and over, whenever it seemed right.  But no Strawberry Top!  It was gone.  I told the children, and sadly we marked that it had been...

A wonderful top! 
An amazing top! 
A remarkable spinning strawberry top! 

Finally, I prayed and the answer came:  "As special as we thought it, maybe someone needed the Strawberry Top more than we did!  And the angels who brought the little wooden top to us, in the first place, may have spirited it out to them!   Peace and closure and we go on - and Christmas was still a delight.

But the little miracle was not ready to give up.  

In 2012,  preparing for the upcoming holidays, I remembered our top and  missed it, and glumly popped "strawberry top" in the search box at the top of my computer's  browser  - and life changed!

Strawberry tops !    Plural !   Dozens of them!  

JUST like ours!  But more - orange tops, pear tops, apple tops, carrot tops and dancing all over the page before me in a color show - from  a company called "Londji" in Catalonia-Spain - they make classic wooden toys - and I tried to buy one of the strawberry tops - but at the time, they did not ship to the United States.     Stunned and happy, but not available for purchase at the site, I could not let go, so close to home and  I emailed them with my story , in happy tears, asking the price for one strawberry top.

 They liked the story so much they published it with their things and sent me one strawberry top, refusing to take payment for it!

The day it arrived at the post office the snow was deep and still falling, and off I went - or should I say,  I flew ?  And then friends from the neighborhood spotted me and gave me a lift. "Why so elated? It's just snowing.... "  

I told them the story and they joined my merry mood.  Soon we were at the Post Office and the tiny box was in hand and opened in the car to delight  another threesome in the snow - thirty years later!  

Thrilled and now back home, I made tea and just gazed at my restored Strawberry top!  YES! It was the right size shape and style in every way!  NO hurry to test it: clearly, it would not fail.   I was glad I was alone - and sent a prayer of a sort that its tiny spirit always be graced to make and share the "Mirth on Earth" that was its destiny, and gave it a spin ... 

A wonderful top! 
An amazing top! 
A remarkable spinning strawberry top! 

Jubilation as I shared the news with our children - like the Angels at the Birth of the tiny Infant who would light the world !   And today it is already basking in the glow - this year's spin done and done and inviting more whenever we like.  Yes!  The Strawberry Top still spins 40 years later!

May the strawberry top send some of its magic to you yours - and may your holidays merrily spin, and spin, also, and always.... happy holiday! ..............elle