The Best Gifts

          An early memory of my grandmother was the task she would assign us after Thanksgiving dinner. She would sit us down with a paper and pencil and ask us for a list of presents we wanted for Christmas. The first time, I let my imagination wander, and listed several things that attracted my attention while browsing the Sears and Roebuck catalog. On Christmas morning, I was embarrassed to find that every single thing I had listed was under the tree for me, from Granny. Santa Claus was left with very little to bring. Many of the items had been just fleeting ideas, and while pulling off the ribbons and paper, I couldn’t recall asking for that particular toy or game.
          The next year, with a little more wisdom under my belt, I gave the list some thought, and only wrote down one thing. Granny provided prompts. “Maybe a nice dress?” she suggested, “Or, what about music? Write down some of your favorite songs.”
In my robe and slippers that December 25, I was glad to receive the special item I had wanted (though I certainly can’t remember what it was all these years later). The dress came from the finest department store in Granny’s city, and for each song I requested, she purchased the whole album, instead of the single I was expecting. One of the most popular songs of the day was a novelty piece called “Rubber Duckie”. True to form, I received the whole album of Sesame Street favorites. Since I was in 7th grade that year, I am quite sure I was the only one of my friends who received that particular gift.
          I began to dread finishing my pumpkin pie. I wished that Granny would take my list as a suggestion, not a purchase order. I hated appearing ungrateful, but I also didn’t like having the rest of the family thinking I was asking for too much. So, I followed the lead of my older cousins, and asked Granny for cash so that I could do my own shopping. I felt a little regret. I think she really enjoyed the hunt, the quest to bring us exactly the items we had asked for, in the perfect color and size. But, come Christmas morning, I was truly grateful, and didn’t have to endure the scrutiny of the rest of the family as I opened present after present.
          Flash forward past years of struggling to provide our own children with at least one of the very special items they dreamed of. Santa always managed to come through somehow.
          At a time of my life when we are able to purchase most of what we need and want throughout the year, there are not a lot of things on my Christmas list these days.  My husband does know me very well, however. So, he enjoys picking out one particular gift that will always make me smile, an addition to the Christmas village that graces my entryway. This indulges my love of decorating, and also sparks my imagination. One day, a holiday book is bound to be set in my very own itty bitty town.
          My favorite gifts are much less expensive, but infinitely more satisfying. I was presented with some of them over the past holiday weekend. A six year old grandson took comfort in my lap after a long day of family celebration. A precious grand-daughter wanted to be involved with meal preparation, and loved to brag about the special cake she and her mom made for us. My increasingly sullen teenaged grand presented me with joyful laughter as he and I played a rousing game of air hockey. The nine-year old and his smaller cousin shared some heartfelt hugs as they headed for home.
          I am looking forward to a few more of these fabulous presents when we travel to see the newest member of the family. I can’t wait for those bright eyed giggles and sloppy kisses.
          I can’t help thinking that the happiness I feel at this time of year must be much like the emotions that surrounded that manger in Bethlehem so long ago. After centuries of stories were passed from one generation to another, God was fulfilling His promise to send a king. No one could predict exactly what would take place in the life of that little baby. But there was wild, unbridled joy in the air. So much amazement at the unbelievable gift they had been given. So much hope for the future. Joy to the World! Oh come let us adore Him!
          May you receive all of His best gifts this holiday season, and look forward to a bright and beautiful new year.

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