If there ever was a season for giving gifts, December is that season. With Hanukah and Christmas at its heart, what other time could be more appropriate? Add to that the never-ending parade of advertisements, the lure of Black Friday (now unmercifully extended into Thanksgiving Day itself) and Cyber Monday. Gifts —the bigger the better, the more complicated electronically the more exciting— seem to take over our lives.
So, wondering, I asked the question: what is the gift that was most memorable to you? The one that stays in memory while all the wonderful toys and jewels and gadgets became lost in a happy blur?
Sometimes the answer recalls a desperate need fulfilled, as did the warm pair of woolen socks—given in the depths of a frozen, war-torn European winter —that my husband always will remember. Sometimes, as a lovely young woman recounted quietly, the gift spoke to a need of the heart: “It was a doll,” she told me. “I never had a real toy before, and there she was, so beautiful and my own.”
Gifts could—should— also be festive and fun, like a giant pink plastic turtle called Manfred, or an ermine coat for a doll, or the magical train set given by loving parents to a bright-eyed little boy. Sometimes the memory harked back to a simpler time like the Christmas stocking, filled with fruit, nuts and little toys that made the day especially happy for a friend. But the Most Remembered gifts did not always come wrapped in ribbons. A gentleman I know recalled a pup that came to him at this time of year.
“I was recovering from scarlet fever,” he mused. “That pup stayed with me night and day while I was sick in bed, and to this day I remember the feel and the scent of him. I lost him after many years, and I miss him still.”
The language of love and loss is often intertwined in stories of the Most Remembered gift, and a friend spoke of a clock-radio received the last Christmas her father was alive. For others, the message is of love found and cherished, for several other friends mused that their greatest gift was meeting or being together with their life partners.
For myself, the story of the Most Remembered gift began with my mother sewing by the fire. Now, this was an extraordinary event because sewing was what my mother hated most. She had a workbasket which was always in pristine condition because it was only used in the direst emergency. So watching her sew lacy things by the fire—muttering to herself whenever she pricked her finger— was a puzzlement. Night after night there she would be with her workbasket and some bits of interesting fabric.
I didn’t think too much about it because I was engrossed in the tree that was being decorated and the hope of the one present I had asked for: a doll which opened and closed its eyes. That this was right after the war and a very difficult time for everyone made no impression on me. For five year olds there is still magic in the world.
On Christmas morning I opened my eyes to find a doll sitting by my bedside. It was an old doll, probably second-hand, with bisque arms and legs, and its eyes opened and shut. And next to this doll was a beautifully arranged trousseau… dresses, slips edged with lace, tiny satin jackets and dresses that had been sewn by firelight…
Of all the gifts I have received and all that I have given, this I remember most: the firelight on my mother’s face as she sewed. And like most beloved and cherished gifts, it is of no importance to anyone but to the heart that gave and to the heart that remembers.
Of the many gifts
We remember most the one
That said, ‘You are loved.’