The Gift You Remember the Most…

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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.’

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

12 responses »

  1. While at first I thought about intangible gifts such as friendship, reunion and good health, I realized that what I needed to recall was a tangible gift. What came to mind instantly were the two dolls that meant so much to me way back when. While Rose Marie, a three year old sized hand-me-down of amazing beauty and talent (she had spool recordings in her back and also could be coaxed to take a few steps while I held her hands) was a marvel; my real favorite was Susan. Susan was a baby doll with a bandaged leg, a bargain casualty of the Filene’s Basement toy department. My Dad brought her home since he worked in the young men’s department close by after heart problems prevented him from returning to his upholstery trade. Susan was especially dear as my dad Louie was gone by the time I was ten, and I could never part with her even after all other dolls and toys (including the enchanting Rose Marie) had been given to younger cousins in the family.

  2. Beautiful story! I, too, remember a similar story, but is was my grandmother who made the beautiful doll clothes. She had once been a maker of hats, and had a gift for creating beautiful original outfits for my doll. I can remember how perfectly they fit! And there was an outfit for every occasion. I even saved these clothes until I was an adult, not being able to part with them!

  3. I forgot to mention the lovely hand-made quilt that your husband gave you!!! I can’t believe I did that– I must be losing my memory. I think I will need to write another whole blog about hand-made gifts… these are special, don’t you think?

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