Friday, December 21, 2012

The Best Christmas Gifts

As I stood cooking some holiday food this morning, I was feeling pretty good about where I stood with preparations for Christmas. Most of the gifts have arrived and I’ve almost finished wrapping. The house is adequately decorated, although I didn’t drag out every single piece of sit around stuff this year. We’ve found some time to entertain friends in a simple way.

Then my thoughts turned to all the intangible gifts I’ve been given in my lifetime…and the thoughts just spun from one to another.

I was cooking my mama’s caramel icing in an old pot I bought the first month I was married. The memory of being in my grandmother’s kitchen where somewhere around twenty cakes were baked each year to fill orders taken at the St. Michael’s Holiday Bazaar popped into my head. My grandmother, great grandmother, Mama, and a great aunt were all doing their share while I watched intently hoping to get to lick the spoon as they worked their magic on the lard and sugar and flour. I was in heaven. My mother continued the practice of baking and donating to her church bazaar for many years . Those women showed me the gift of generosity and gave me a social conscience centered on faith. The gift of a sweet tooth is a mixed blessing, but it is still something I treasure. The gift of seeing four generations gathered in the kitchen amicably is an even greater gift.

I never thought much about getting a gift from my daddy, as I was well aware that the gifts under the tree each year were purchased and wrapped by Mama. She operated in the guise of Santa in the early years, but signed gift tags in her handwriting in later years. I am absolutely certain Daddy never purchased a single bauble for me in my life. But he gave me some gifts too. He made sure I got a good education. He found opportunities for me to work as a page in the Alabama legislature where I watched the civil rights struggle unfold. He pulled strings to get me a job at Yellowstone Park, back when it required a congressional appointment to do so. He didn’t even fuss much when my college bank account became seriously overdrawn that summer I was at Yellowstone! He obviously enjoyed my company and our shared common interests in politics and finance in his later years. There were no price tags on those gifts, but they were certainly treasures.

After I finished the cake, my husband headed off to face the Kroger crowd without complaint, even though I had supposedly done the grocery shopping yesterday. He has given me the gift of patience even if it comes without a lot of understanding. He doesn’t complain and indulges me when I simply must have beauty surrounding me…even though his needs are totally different. He’s also given me the gift of feeling safe and protected, which is a special kind of love.

My girls have given me the gift of joy in seeing them become better mothers and homemakers than I ever dreamed I’d be while having successful careers too. Each has her own style and somewhat differing economic situations, but each has created a beautiful home, and they provide their children with tender loving care in a much more conscientious way than I ever could. (Can I count pride as a gift? This is my piece… and I think I will!) That pride encompasses Walker III whose conscientiousness is an inspiration and his loving cuddles are most treasured.

The grandchildren have given me many small joys, especially when the little ones light up when they see me and run as fast as they can into my arms, almost bowling me over, or allow me to read an “antique” storybook with them, or debate me on politics in a not quite grown up way.

My friends continue to shower me with gifts, some tangible and thoughtful, others just spontaneous. They give me the gifts of acceptance and empathy, accompanied by a hefty dose of laughter and joy.

Most of those gifts I treasure most dearly cost absolutely nothing except a small amount of time and patience. I hope I give some gifts back that aren’t just the ones under the tree. I’m trying hard to make sure I do, and I hope someone notices, but even if they don’t, I’ll know.

Christmas Blessings to All,

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