The best part of Christmas is the giving. Right? I know. It is. But there was this one time, this one Christmas, where receiving was pretty darn good.
It was the first Christmas I spent with Allen. We had been dating about eight months and had recently moved in together. There was nothing elaborate in the gift (which was actually several gifts). He didn’t buy diamonds. There was no new car in the living room. It was so thoughtful and so romantic, I know I’ll remember it all my life.
We were at his mother’s house. He’d told me that their tradition was that one at a time, each person was to open all their gifts at once. Everyone would gather around and enjoy watching family members tear into the presents. Sounded like a long morning to me, but who was I to mess with a family tradition?
I hesitantly read aloud:
Merry Christmas Sweetheart,
The presents you receive tonight are not the true gifts.
He handed me a wrapped box and asked me to read the next line.
One will represent our common interests and the time we will spend developing those interests.
In the box was a bridle from my horse. We had a small bit of land and a couple of horses at the time. I had an unmatched saddle and bridle set. The new one matched the saddle perfectly.
I read the next line.
One will represent the beauty I see when I look at you.
That box held a simple silver bracelet with a heart shaped charm. Very pretty. I was tearing up already and there were four lines and three gifts left on the floor in front of me. I looked around at the gathered family. They were all smiles. I wondered if they knew everything about what was going on.
He pointed to the side door. The whole family trailed behind me as I peeked out. Nothing. I had to all the way out the door to see anything. When I got all the way out I could see there was a new porch swing with a big gold bow on it sitting by the truck.
One will symbolize the warmth we feel with each other.
I tore open this box with no more of a clue as to its contents than I had any of the others. Months earlier I had commented how much I liked the huge white faux fur-lined hood on a coat we saw in a catalogue. He’d remembered and found one with the same fuzzy look. Such a simple thing really but it said so much. I hear you. I listen.
The last gift was rather large and oddly shaped. I read the words,
One will symbolize the pride that I have in you and your accomplishments.
I pulled paper away to find that Allen had gotten my college diploma, honor braids and tassel from my mother. He’d had them beautifully framed. It was huge. I don’t mean in size. With my dyslexia, earning that piece of paper had taken eight years and a lot of effort and tears. He knew that. He said he wanted me to be reminded everyday-- I can.
They were each the perfect gift. Not so much for what Allen bought me, but for the thought and the intention in which he gave them.
Today is Allen’s birthday. He would have been 47. I lost him to cancer nine years after that Christmas. I still have the card. I’m grateful that I have an understanding of what it really means to give from the heart. I also have the coat, the bracelet. I wrote my first novel swinging in that porch swing. (And several since).
I wish you all the best of the holiday season. May you give and receive with heart. Tell me your favorite gift, whether sentimental or fun, and I’ll send one of you a gift. How about a $10 gift card to The Body Shop so you can pamper yourself for a few minutes? Or who knows? You may decide to pass it along as a heartfelt gift for someone else.
~Mari FreemanFind Mari: