christmas gift memories
heart-warming memories of gifts & the people who gave them
In my childhood, my dad’s gifts were the most anticipated - and they weren’t even the ones for me! We lived in a small town. Dad would go hit the local dress shops. He was known to see something on a mannequin and say, “I want that for my wife!” These were complete outfits. There would be a blouse, vest, jacket, pants, skirts, and sometimes other matching accessories. His favorite dress shop probably missed out on tons more sales because the mannequins didn’t have feet with socks and shoes on them. Ha! Though he did often forgo the costume accent jewelry and go get something nice from the local jeweler.
Here’s the thing he did that was so cool. He would have each piece wrapped there in the store … separately! Their packages were beautiful! He would come home at some random time with an armful of packages to go under our tree. It was so fun every year to watch my mom open each package. No one - not even dad - knew which piece she would be opening or what would be next to go with it. But my dad had good taste and it was always beautiful!
One of my most favorite gifts one year when I was in college was the year he did that for me. I felt so special. He had been walking through Dillards in the mall and walked by a mannequin and told mom, “That looks like Mel!” and he went to the sales associate and said I want that - pointed to the mannequin - for my daughter. I wish I had a photo somewhere of me in the outfit. I think there is one that I know of - if I find it I will come back and share it. But it was a puffy sweatshirt. I don’t know how to explain it - I haven’t seen these come back into stores since that season. It wasn’t lined. It wasn’t a hoodie. It was like a puffy quilted shirt only it wasn’t quilted. It was insulated with some sort of batting or something. Anyway, it was white and had Mickey Mouse on the front of it. Then it had the back view of Mickey on the back. The jeans were a washed dark gray and they had something akin to cargo pockets on the thighs that folded down and revealed some sort of mustard yellow covered fabric as an accent (haven’t seen anything like this back in stores either). The mustard yellow matched something on the Mickey Mouse motif on the shirt. I think he even got me matching mustard yellow socks. It’s something I would still wear today if I had it (and I could fit into it! ha!).
In my adult life, one year he gave my mom and me gift certificates for a day at a really nice spa! We had massages and facials and champagne brunch … at the end they styled our hair and did our makeup. I don’t remember a lot about the day except that it was one of the few experiences like this that I’ve had with my mom which was a gift in itself.
My dad’s gift-giving became his legendary legacy. He would pop in his mechanic/tire shop with boxes of donuts or lunch items for the workers. He would take blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless. My brother and I had a conversation one time after my dad died about how intimidating that legacy is and how we always feel like we fall short.
Then there are other gift givers in some families that also comprise memories for some people. I will list a few - who did I miss that comes to mind for you?
The frugal, wealthy family matriarch who gives slipper socks size medium to every woman in the family. (Anyone see The Ref?) That same person is highly condescending when it comes to receiving gifts. It gets to the point where family members just stop trying to get something she will like, gather around the spiked bowl of egg nog and create a drinking game around predictions of how she will react to each gift as she opens them.
The neurodivergent family member who arrives late to everything and is completely unpredictable. They may or may not have seen something during the year that made them think of you, they purchased and somehow managed to keep up with the gift, and it arrived under the tree - rarely gift wrapped; if so, it was in the closest box or grocery bag they had - or possibly, a borrowed gift bag from the host. If they hadn’t come across something and kept up with it, then you’re likely getting a big package of beef jerky from the nearest convenience store. You know this because it’s still in the bag with the receipt (time stamped 5 minutes before he arrived) that he hands to you when he walks in the door with a shrug, smirky smile, and a holiday greetings sentiment. You eventually learn to laugh at this frustrating behavior because it’s just “sooooo them” and you love them anyway.
You may have a gift giver in your people group who is sentimental. They carefully hand craft or pull together a gift oozing with memories, nostalgia, accompanied by a handwritten letter about how special you are to them. While these gifts are often under appreciated by any non-sentimental recipient, they are also often non-returnable. This gift giver does NOT shop at the local mall. I imagine these gift givers with dedicated shelves or entire cabinets or closets dedicated to cultivating their gift-giving passion. They put as much thought into the details of the wrapping as they do the gift inside.
Or maybe you have the absent-minded gift giver like Aunt Bethany in Christmas Vacation that wraps random objects or pets.
Feel a Certain Kind of Way
In your childhood - or even your adulthood - there were certain packages from certain people that just made you feel a certain kind of way, even before you opened them. Like my dad that I mentioned above - or my grandad. I still remember and have two gifts that he got for me. I remember opening a gift one year - it was a doll. I was too old for dolls… probably 15 or so. Granny immediately said - “Frank picked that out!” My grandad had tears in his eyes and said, “She just reminded me of you.” I loved that gift. I still treasure the memory of her and his sentiment. Rubix cubes were so popular that year - they bought me one - it was an off-brand (which was so NOT cool in my preppy circles in an era of Polo / Izod shirts, etc) and the colors were these cool muted jewel tones. I still have it! I’ve never seen another one like it! My brother was the one obsessed with those things. But I love the I got one from my grandparents. It was me. It was unique. I was so proud to show it off.
Timing is everything!
Then there was the year where perfect timing contributed to the perfect gift. It wasn’t even wrapped. I was living in a tiny town not far from the town where my parents lived. My kids and I had planned to spend the day with my mom making and decorating sugar cookies, etc. When I left home, I knew the weather in spite of being fairly warm and sunny that morning was going to turn into a blizzard by mid-afternoon. (Ya gotta love this kind of weather or living here will drive you bonkers!) So, I was so proud of myself in my short sleeves that I remembered to grab my kids coats. What I didn’t remember was my own! By the time I got to my parents house just 30 minutes later, temps had dropped drastically and my mom had forgotten something at the store that she wanted me to go pick up… along with the rest of the Texas Panhandle who forgets that snow melts the next day around here -so they make a mad dash to the grocery stores and clean out the shelves of milk and bread and create the chaos of long lines (this was before the luxury of self-checkouts).
I was texting my best friend while in line and watching as it started snowing outside. I confessed my ridiculousness of forgetting my own coat that day and he asked me if I could meet him over at the park near the grocery store I was at when I was done so he could give me my Christmas present early. So, I risked the frost bite to meet him. He was in a rush, supposed to be somewhere else at the time -but had waited for me to get through the long lines. My early Christmas present? A Carhartt women’s coat with Sherpa lining!! It wasn’t wrapped- I didn’t care. It was the most perfect gift I ever received. It had been on my Christmas wish list for several years and I never received one. Plus, the timing was everything!
What Christmas gift memories come to mind for you?
I hope you have a happy holiday season! I pray that you are blessed with all of the things like peace and joy that can’t be wrapped in pretty packages and tied with pretty bows that may bless you on repeat in the coming year.
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