I believe the best gifts rarely come wrapped in pretty paper tied with a bow. Two presents I cherished didn’t fit in a box or a nifty gift bag, and weren’t delivered by FTD or Santa Claus. Oddly enough, both were given by the same person as Christmas gifts with several decades separating each occasion.
Years ago, I found my older sister deeply enmeshed in a new project. Her crochet needle was bobbing back and forth at breakneck speed and yarn flew between her fingers. I stared at her incredulously when she told me she was making a sweater for Linda for Christmas. Linda was Susie’s current best friend and co-worker at the five and dime. I liked Linda but she was notoriously cheap and, and in my opinion, rather selfish. I was appalled that Susie would invest her time and effort on such a unique gift knowing she’d be lucky to get a pair of drugstore earrings or a stick of sealing wax in return. I was sure Linda would never appreciate my sister’s hard work and creativity. For weeks I watched as the skeins of wool transformed into a bulky cardigan. I never missed an opportunity to let Susie know what a chump she was. Unfazed, she crocheted on. Her indifference infuriated me. Nothing I said could convince her to keep the sweater for herself. Of course, come Christmas morning, I found the sweater under the tree with my name on it. I loved that sweater (I wish I still had it!), but the real gift was that not once, before, during or after this episode, did she berate me for abusing her best friend. I don’t remember what I gave her that year. Probably sealing wax.
Two years ago our family spent Christmas at Susie’s house. As the afternoon wound down I was told to remain downstairs because Aunt Susie was getting my Christmas present ready. I wasn’t expecting a gift so I braced myself for what I figured would be a practical joke. When finally summoned upstairs, I was surprised to see the living room aglow in candle light and a single chair placed in the middle of the room. After the family gathered and Susie ushered me to said chair, music began to spill into the room. I leaned back, closed my eyes and felt it wash over me in billows. The music grew louder and I could feel its pulse in my body. The words echoed what my own heart was singing. The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah filled the room and I basked in its magnificence. From a seemingly innocuous comment made days earlier about my favorite Christmas carol, Susie presented me with one of the world’s musical masterpieces to relish for a moment in time as if it had been written just for me.
I hope that when Susie reads these words, she accepts them as my gift to her, wrapped in a hug and sealed not with wax, but a kiss.