It’s a bit of a sad reality that I remember exceedly few of the Christmas gifts I received as a child. But there were many other gifts I received during the Season that weren’t wrapped festively and placed under the Christmas tree. Those are the gifts that have kept on giving over the decades and warm me with fond memories.

There’s the gift of my parents nurturing my budding creative life by allowing me to do most of the holiday decorating, and as I grew older, most of the gift wrapping. It still amazes me that my folks let me use tin snips and needle nose pliers to cut and curl tin can lids into silvery stars and clapper less bells for the Christmas tree when I was only eight or nine. Or that I spent hours creating scenes with Christmas stencils and Glass Wax on the dining room window.

There’s the gift of grace the year I had just finished decorating the Christmas tree. When I went to plug in the bubble lights, the plug was just shy of the outlet. I energetically tugged on the cord to span the distance and the whole tree tipped over. My mother was on the phone with a friend at that moment and all I remember her saying, in a surprisingly calm voice, was, “I have to hang up now.” No recrimination. No punishment. Just a reassuring helping hand.

There’s the gift of a substitute grandmother when ours lived miles away. Out the back gate and down the alley lived Grammy Claire who managed a yard with a big walnut tree.  She harvested the nuts in fall, removing the outer hulls till her fingers turned a purplish black. She spread the camel brown hard-shelled nuts to dry on canvas cots along the driveway. Come December, she cracked the nuts open picking out the walnut meat which she then ground for the finishing layer of the most sublime English toffee ever created. One of my favorite memories is hovering next to her kitchen work table watching as she spread the hot toffee on waxed paper, smoothed the melted chocolate layer on top, and then dusted those home grown and ground walnuts on top. If I stayed long enough to visit, she would play the piano then break the toffee into jagged pieces after it set, and send me home with a full tin that somehow was a wee bit emptier by the time I’d moseyed back up the alley.

There’s the gift of being family with the friends who gathered around our dining room table for each year’s predicable feast. I have few memories of sharing the holidays with biological relatives because we were disconnected from one another by the physical distances that separated us. Friends, especially church friends, were our near and dear family – those we thought first and foremost of sharing Christmas dinner with.

There’s the gift of imaginative gift giving superbly practiced by my father’s dental assistant. I always looked forward to Alice’s arrival at our front door. She came bearing gifts that were always a few years more advanced than my actual age; gifts that seemed exotic and wonderful to a preteen girl. Gifts that made me dream of a larger world – a pink jewelry box lined with velvet, a clear plastic purse like a dainty lunch box, a gold filigree lipstick holder, white gloves with pearl buttons at the wrist.

Most especially, there’s the gift of wonder I thrilled at one year when we walked into church on Christmas Eve under a full moon surrounded by a huge luminous halo. I was so absolutely sure God was responsible that somehow the beauty of that halo convinced me of the in-breaking reality of the Christmas story – the reality of our greatest Gift. God’s Gift who is the reason for the season.

What are the memorable gifts you’ve received over the years which you didn’t find wrapped under the Christmas tree? Is there such a gift you hope to receive this season?

May those intangible gifts of the season fill you with love, peace and hope.

Merry Christmas!






3 comments to Gifts

  • Patricia Conder McWane

    The one gift I treasure is the Gift of Friendship that reaches from coast to coast and all over the maps. The Friends that I haven’t been in touch with in some time, but I know are still my Friends. They are true gifts from God that I cherish and my love for them is always in my heart. Thank you for your Inspiration and Friendship.

    May God’s blessings continue with you & your family.


  • Deanna J Bowling

    Without chancing the pulling down of the website, my sister Ellen.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    To explain would pull down the website, probably sending smoke out of the computer. She was quite the lady.

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