My mom's best friend, whom she she has known for over 60 years, always does something interesting at the holidays. Rather than ask people what their favorite gift was that they received, she asks people what was the favorite gift they gave. When I was a kid this always seemed a little quirky, one of those "you must stop and think about the true meaning of Christmas " moments that parents like to inflict on their kids. As I got older, especially as I had kids, it seemed to make much more sense. As a grownup we usually do give alot more gifts than we receive. And my fondest memories do seem to be attached to gifts I have given, not gotten. So Regina Speaker, this blog is for you.
Several of my all time favorite Christmas gifts have been courtesy of my daughter who had a penchant for last minute requests to Santa. One year we went to the Cub Scout Christmas Party on the 23rd where she advised Santa that she wanted her own little tree. PANIC! Plus I had to work Christmas Eve leaving little time to get one. Fortunately the corner drug store had trees left on sale...and I found a lovely little tree with built in lights...just 2 feet tall. Another year she requested her own Harry Potter video...at least that was easy to find. During her pink period, which lasted about 8 years, we gave her a doll size Graco stroller and carseat set. Unfortunately it was blue, and the next Christmas she advised Santa he had brought the wrong color stroller, and she needed a pink one this year. I bought her a little pink umbrella stroller so Santa didnt lose face. A couple years ago, the last year she asked Santa for gifts, she wanted a dollhouse. By the time I had the money the Barbie mansions were all either sold out or way out of our price range. Knowing this was probably our last "Santa" year made me want even more to get it right, when I found at Target a dollhouse shaped bookshelf. 3 floors and ceilings high enough for the whole Barbie family, it had the added benefit of being wood, not plastic, and much sturdier. In a charitable moment her brother assembled it and hid it in his room till the big day.
The boy has usually been easier to shop for over the years. Once he outgrew Brio trains, his usual preference was for whatever new Harry Potter Lego set was out. We had 2 seperate Hogwarts castles, the chamber of secrets, The Hogwarts Expressand many more. My only rule was that we assemble them once according to the rules and I be allowed to photograph the results. Assembling Legos were a piece of cake compared to assembling Hot Wheels. I still have nightmares about a Hot Wheel post office with tiny packages that rolled down a tiny conveyer belt into tiny trucks. But that was when the Boy believed Mom could do anything, so we made it work.
This past year he wanted baseball gear that he picked out but I managed one surprise that was an alltime favorite. The Boy as previously mentioned, is a huge Civil War buff. His favorite person of the war is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his favorite regiment the 20th Maine. While surfing on line I found a "Propertyof the 20th Maine" tshirt which I managed to get ordered and into the house without him seeing it. The look of surprise on his face was worth all the hassle. He wears it to school all the time. There are about 3 people there who know who the 20th Maine was, so he enjoys his symbol of extra knowledge.
I should in fairness to the givers mention a few favorites I have received. For about 5 years when he was small my son gave me "Barbies" in holiday gowns. I have them all on display in my room, still in their original boxes, because that is how one displays fine collectable dolls. Over the years I have also aqured a number of hand crafted items of jewelry and pottery, treasures every one of them. In fact one of the things I miss now that the kids are both out of grade school are all the lovely little photo tree ornaments and holiday decorations they used to make. I have a wreath the boy made in cub scouts that consists of a bent fir branch and a big red bow. It goes on the front door every year.
I am especially fond of gifts that remind of the giver, such as several coffee mugs I have gotten from friends over the years. Sitting down to a cup of coffee with one is like a hug from the absent one. One of my dads best friends sent me a figurine for my daughters first Christmas...a little blond haired girl dancing with Santa. I treasued it first for what it showed, and treasure it even more now as a memento of someone I miss.
Several of my favorite gifts from my husband have been books: an annotated Wizard of Oz one year, an annoted Christmas Carol another. Our longest running joke was over the bottle of Channel no 5 I laughingly included each year, knowing it was far beyond our means. One Christmas about 10 years ago he finally bought me a bottle. How much I treasured it can be seen by the fact I finally used it up last month. Guess its time to start hinting for a new one.
If I were to sum it all up I would say the gifts I treasure most are loved for the thought that went into them and for the fond connection to the giver. I hope those I have gifted feel the same way.
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