It is finally cold in New Orleans this week, which has made it much easier to feel the holiday spirit. But reading more of your stories of some of the best gifts you’ve ever received might be a big factor too.
I have two favorite gifts: First, I received a pair of earrings from Qatar as a gift from my dad when he came home after a 6-month stint in Iraq in 2006-2007. While not a supporter of the war, he made the courageous decision to volunteer to work overseas, as his way to support the troops in combat. Obviously, I was worried for his safety, but extremely proud of the sacrifice he was willing to make for this country. To me, the earrings remind me of my dad’s sense of loyalty to the Americans serving abroad and his courageous spirit.
Secondly, during my 2 years in grad school, I worked at a coffee shop in DC where I got to know many of the customers who frequented the shop. One of the regular customers was an avid knitter and offered to make all the baristas a custom scarf as a token of appreciation. I boldly asked for a yellow scarf (my favorite color at the time) and was in love with the way it turned out.
I had only been dating my boyfriend Brian for a few months, and we had been dating long distance the entire time. That Christmas, I was a first year law student in my very first semester. I should stress that Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. My family does it up big: we set up lots of decorations, drive around to look at lights, and go to Christmas-themed plays. You can understand why I was extra disappointed that the whole season was being destroyed by the stress of studying for finals.
Brian decided to fly to Chicago to meet my family for the first time the weekend before Christmas. He carried my Christmas present in his luggage, a misshapen lump wrapped in Christmas paper, and I could not for the life of me guess what it was. I gave him his gift (which involved a Barney Stinson inspirational poster) and then eagerly opened mine. It was a plush Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas decoration. Basically, it was Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, and Hermie the dentist elf. When you push a button, they say lines from the cartoon and sing “Misfits.” It sounds really odd, but it was the perfect thing for the girl who loved Christmas and felt like it had been stolen from her that year. Not only that, but the way he obtained the present made it that much more impressive. It had been opened by someone else at his office’s White Elephant gift swap. He used all of his steals for me, because as soon as he saw it, he knew I would love it. I know he bought me other things that year, but I can’t remember any of them now. This Rudolph showed just how well he knew me, after only a few months. The boyfriend that went out of his way for me in everything he did, who stole a Rudolph for me, will be my husband in a few short months.
I spent my junior year of college in Paris, where I have a lot of family, including–at the time–my grandparents. We had a standing Wednesday night dinner appointment, and I really appreciated getting to spend that time with them, particularly since my grandfather’s health started to decline not too long thereafter. When I was coming home to New York at the end of the school year, they gave me a book, from the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, a French series of books by important & classic authors. The one they gave me was the complete dramatic works of Sartre. While I appreciated that they knew me well enough to pick a writer I enjoy, what struck me about it was the gesture of giving me the first piece of something that could become an amazing collection. My grandfather had a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with books from this collection that I hugely admired, being a total nerd about such things, and I knew that they were extremely important to him as well. While I haven’t gotten any other books from the Pléiade yet, I was really very touched to get that first building block from my grandparents.
Ken (my dad!):
I don’t have an all-time favorite, but here are a few of my favorites: 1) Christmas 1971 – from my parents – a black, incredibly-powered 1969 Chevelle SS396, the stuff every muscle-car maniac dreams of owning; 2) Christmas 1976 – from my wife Yvette – a beautiful little grey furball named Tigger (I thought I was getting scuba gear…); 3) February 2004 – from my mother – my Dad’s Rolex watch and his wedding ring when he passed away. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. 4) November 2008 – a wedding present from my second wife, Fran – a beautiful White/Silver Harley Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle. Most beautiful motorcycle I’ve ever owned, and my favorite by far. 5) And as always, saving the best for last – the birth of each of my 4 kids was the stuff that was “life-changing”. Just doesn’t get any better than that!
Thanks to everyone who sent in stories. If you’re still searching for the perfect gift to give a friend or family member, try asking this question to each other. And for those of you who shared stories, I hope these posts were a great conversation starter to say “thank you” to the person whose gift you decided to write about. For more inspiration, read about one of my favorite gifts as well as more stories from readers.