Early in January 1954, Mr. Guy Priest came to our house with a box of surprises.
Usually I saw Mr. Priest when I was skidding my bike around on Baker Street. “Hello, Mr. Priest!”
Instead of waving, he would smile and nod. His hands were busy with two 5-gallon pails stuffed with gladiolas in full bloom. Mr. Priest cut these beauties from the garden behind his house and delivered them to customers.
Mother showed Mr. Priest in.
He set a box of surprises on my bed. I needed surprises, because the doctor had sent me to bed for many days to allow bones to mend.
Mr. Priest’s box was cardboard. A wrap of heavy white paper hid the J.C. Penny logo, and it was larger than my shoe box. Maybe it once held a pair of boots.
On all four sides, from under the lid, numbered tags dangled on strings.
Mr. Priest told me to pull tag #1.
I pulled, and out came a tiny plastic car. He said tomorrow I should pull tag #2 and the next day #3. The number of tags equaled the number of days I had to stay in bed.
So each day I tugged at a new tag, and out came a new surprise — a toy compass, a magnifying glass, a pen, a 3×5 notepad, a plastic comb, a pocket mirror, a little tractor, etc. The tags took on a glitter brighter than the golden bells and pomegranates at the hem of Aaron’s robe.
We lived among merchants, missionaries, and college professors. Some told my parents how concerned they were for their injured child. Yet it took the imagination of a glad gardener to point a 12-year-old’s thoughts away from another long day in bed ─ toward today’s surprise.
Mr. Guy Priest, a regular guy with a box of surprises.