December has arrived and as usual, I am scurrying about with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head—which is to say that I am trying to work out what to get for whom, and from where, and at what cost, and so forth … One thing is for certain: when it comes to the simple gifts one may purchase, the age of technology has made life so much easier. For another year now, I will do most, if not all, of my holiday shopping online. I love clicking the BUY button and then waiting for things to arrive on my doorstep.
But our subject this month has put me in a more introspective mood about gifting …
We Quills have decided to comment briefly on a gift we received at some time that made a lasting memory, and on something we gave that made a lasting impression.
First, I thought we’d see what my fellow Quills have to say on the subject. Make sure you follow the links for each to get “the rest of the story."
Robin Lythgoe is the author of As the Crow Flies. Robin’s stories, perfect for ages 12-85, come packed with adventure and humor. Perhaps you know just the right person to receive a copy of one of her works for Christmas … (?)
Robin - What do you have for us today?
It was 1999, and my father was dying. The cancer was fairly aggressive. Shocking, when he’d been so healthy all his life. He’d left the family years before to follow a drummer only he heard. We didn’t see much of him, but still—it was Dad. Time was short. So was money…
Thank you for sharing, Robin, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Moving on ...
P.S. Broaddus offers delightful tales for middle school readers—and I know how difficult those are to find. So, if you’ve got a young one on your gift-giving list (and who of us doesn’t?), you’ll find out more about his work on his site. In the meantime, let’s see what he has to say about gift-giving …
When I think about giving, and gifts, a story from when I was close to nine or ten comes to mind.
My younger brother and I were given a few dollars by our folks and encouraged to find something for each other for Christmas. Being a kid, I did some quick math, figured I could snatch a passable something and still have monies left over.
Thank you so much, Parker!
Finally, here are my thoughts.
Gift giving is an art - a fine art. Gift giving is the fine art of selecting just the right thing for someone—and it is one that I work at. At times I’ve hit the sweet spot so perfectly, that it left even me surprised. But before I get to that, let me comment on a gift I received that made a lasting memory.
Some years ago, the women at my church used various things to help us to get to know one another and to build community. One of the programs we instituted was a Secret Pal plan. Each person drew a name and every month throughout the year, they were to remember that person in some way. The idea wasn’t to have to purchase gifts regularly. Rather, it was to make a connection. Thus, a simple card or note was often the means for fulfilling one’s duties. Often the things people gave, or the times at which they were given, answered needs that could not possibly have been known to the gift-giver. But at the end of the year, we had a big reveal party and … Well, suffice it to say, some of the stories people told were nothing short of amazing.
One year the person who chose my name was not someone I knew particularly well, and what I did know of her and the contacts I did have with her were not always pleasant. (She was a difficult soul …) In any case, there were several times throughout the year that she gifted different things to me that frankly, I no longer remember. But there was one gift I’ll never forget because it surprised me so. You see, one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, is Anne of Green Gables. I adore that girl—and I understand her—and I identify with her. Although I grew up in a big family—with seven (count them!) sisters, I often (as may well be the case for many others) felt alone and misunderstood and ignored. My siblings had neighbor children their ages, with whom they played regularly. I did not. Consequently, I was alone a lot and I read a lot. My mother would say I had a rather uncanny intellect for a young one. Perhaps that accounted for why I was the only one of the eight of us who went to college (until some years later when one of my other sisters got her degree). Perhaps that explains why I went to law school. I don’t know …
In any case, I did not discover Anne until adulthood, but when I did, she spoke to me in ways that perhaps no other fictional character ever had before, or has since. So when my Secret Pal gave me the VHS tapes (yes, it was awhile ago!) of all of the Anne stories (produced by Kevin Sullivan, starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, and Richard Farnsworth) … Well, those tapes still hold a place on my shelf and I still watch them from time to time. Of course, I have to be prepared to spend hours crying during, and afterward, but I do watch them. And oh, how I do love Anne! I think of that gift-giver every time I see the tapes and I wonder where she is these days (as it has been years since I last saw her). I hope that she is well and happy.
Now for a gift I’ve given that made a lasting memory … As I said, I take gift-giving very seriously, so this was actually a hard decision to make, but I am going to go with the time my youngest, Isabelle, turned eleven. I knew she loved to sing, as it is something we do a lot of in my house. And I knew that she had a particularly good voice. So when her birthday rolled around, I decided I would gift her … voice lessons.
The day of her birthday was a school day, but she was of course excited to receive her gift. I remember she had just finished up in the bathroom and was headed back to her room. She stopped me to ask if she might get her gift before school. I told her that her gift wasn’t exactly something I could hand to her. I remember the look of confusion on her face. Then I told her that I could tell her what her gift was, if she wanted me to do that. Standing a few feet from me, she thought that plan sounded good. So I told her that I had arranged for her to take voice lessons (with a family friend she had known for years). She sucked in a breath, ran to me, threw her arms around me, and cried. Now, my little Isabelle doesn’t often share her feelings quite so boldly, so I knew that I had hit the mark. I think the gift made a lasting memory for her. I know it did for me.
Here’s a sample of little Isabelle, from about 10 years ago.
And here is a sample from a few years ago. This video is from a practice for a production, Two From Galilee, that we will perform this year for the 24th year in a row. You’ll hear background noise and talking, and you might even see people running around as we prepare cast, crew, stage, and more. Here, Isabelle plays Mary with the young man who (a voice major himself), once gave her voice lessons. (Personally, I like the last minute and a half or so, the best). I think it is fair to say that the two of them can sing.
For fun, here's a pic of the production poster we created.
And here is a pic of Mary and Joseph, after a show!
What was your best gift ever received? How about the best give you ever gave? Please do share your stories with us!