Once again, Christmas commercials feature folks exchanging perfect gifts, joyfully given and joyfully received.
I have never given a gift that caused such jubilation.
No matter how much thought, money, and time I spend on a present, I doubt myself: What was I thinking? Did I buy the needlepoint pillow kit for my outdoorsy friend because she would like it; because I wanted it; or because shopping made my feet ache?
I’m particularly inept at choosing gifts for group exchanges or Secret Santa festivities.
I remember purchasing a book of Life Savers for a gift exchange at a friend’s Christmas party in 8th grade. With Santa on the cover, it looked festive, and—what the heck—everybody likes Life Savers.
As the party approached, I began to worry. One friend was taking Cheery Cherry lipstick; another chose a ponytail barrette shaped like a butterfly. What was I thinking with my babyish gift? After much fussing, I stayed home and crunched Life Savers until my teeth ached.
I’m also plagued by gift exchange rules: a recommended price or the specification of a white elephant or joke gift. When I comply, others don’t; when I don’t, others do. Either way, as my gift is opened, I stick my head in a houseplant.
I once attended an all female Christmas party where we were instructed to bring joke gifts. The guests smiled happily over the exclamations of others as they opened their gifts: decorative candles, See’s chocolates, and holly-bedecked hand towels.
An appalled silence greeted my contribution: a dead gold fish afloat in a quart jar.
A rough-and-tumble child once gave me the best lesson I’ve ever received about giving.
The day before Christmas vacation, I stood on an icy playground, braced against a snow-flecked wind, keeping an eye on children bouncing with excitement. Feeling a tug on my sleeve, I looked down at the beaming face of Freddy, a young boy of exuberance, who sometimes visited with me in my office about the need for rules.
He opened his hand and revealed a soggy piece of fudge melting in his sweaty palm. “Here, principal, my mom made this, and I saved one of my pieces for you because I really like you.”
A humble offering from an open heart: the perfect gift, given and received with joy.
Have some thoughts about
the best or worst Christmas present
you’ve given or received?
Summary of comments about “See to Your Siblings.”
Last week’s post seemed to resonate with readers of all ages. Dawna said, “This post brought tears to my eyes and a longing to go home to be with my siblings and parents;” Bonnie wondered if that longing ever goes away and feels that every moment with her siblings is precious. Janice wrote that she has always admired the affection my siblings and I feel for one another — what a lovely comment. And, finally, Jeannie wrote a delightful description of the bond between sisters that any reader who is a sister should read in its entirety, if you have the time.