Across the Savannah / Down South: The Christmas gift that keeps on giving
By Tom Poland
Christmas Day blesses us with good times with family and food, and, yes, it’s a day of giving, but how many gifts, among the many, do you remember?
Not many I bet. Well, some gifts stand tall in memory. I’d think country boys remember their first shotgun, and little girls remember that special doll, and some got a new car for Christmas. It was in the driveway with a huge bow on it, delivered during the night by the Jolly One.
What’s your special gift? You’d never guess mine in a hundred tries. It was a wooden desk with a thick green glass top. It didn’t have a pullout shelf for a keyboard because the personal computer was decades away.
Mom and Dad gave me that Christmas desk in 1961. Solid wood. Simple and beautiful. It came with a small gooseneck lamp, with a flexible neck and a forest green, metal shade. I had to be careful adjusting it, or the metal shade would burn me. I did English papers at that desk and read many a book there. That’s when a small flame began to flicker. Might, I, too, write a book someday? When antiquing arrived, Mom gave that desk a copper green patina, streaked a bit so it seemed old. That paint must have robbed the desk of its magic because football consumed me for four years. Then off to college I went where other desks came into my life. Many classroom desks ... then the work years came and I sat at an old military surplus desk in a government job. Ugly and made from metal it was cold to the touch in winter. During a corporate stint I sat in a cube farm with a modular shelf serving as a desk. It seemed fake.
Other cube farms waited down the road but eventually I achieved escape velocity. The desk I work at now—I’m at it this very moment—is a fine desk. Cherry, with two-tone colors, natural and black. I’ve written six books at this desk, which sits east to west. Working, I face the sunny South with the North to my back. I sit at the junction of Imagination and All Things Possible.
I have another desk I love, a teacher’s desk made of beautiful pine. Wrote my first film script at that desk. At a time that wasn’t the best, I found great comfort at that desk. I’d lift the top, sit down to write, and forget a sorry decision I’d made.
Some people associate desks with work, and sometimes a good change in job status. “Well, my desk is waiting. Off to the coal mine I go.” Or, “Did you hear old Roger got a desk job?”
I don’t see desks that way. I see them as magical depots that send me to wonderful places. That first desk, the one I saw that cold winter morning by the Christmas tree set me on a path that continues to give me wonderful experiences. I’ve shot down the Chattooga’s cold whitewater, stood chest deep in blackwater swamps, explored wild islands, flown over Carolina bays, and explored the back roads of the red clay and Palmetto states. I’ve seen my work produced on stage, in films, books, and many a magazine, and I’ve met wonderful people, the salt of the earth, artists, musicians, celebrities, and just plain good folk.
That first desk? I have no idea what became of the best Christmas gift I received. I hope another soul discovered its magic, but I know this. It changed my life and it keeps giving me great memories. Without doubt, other adventures lie ahead in 2019, and if there’s such a thing as a deskologist, an expert who tracks book’s ancestors, that first desk will be declared the grand patriarch of their clan. It’s where everything began.