This post is about the “gifts” that stay with you, that leave an abiding and memorable impression. Just the good ones, lol. After the year we’ve had, we could use some positive and lasting inspiration.
Please take the time to read through each personal tale of Gifts and Gratitude. These stories are full of humor and heart.
A REAL GIFT
I am SO glad you decided to do this again! I submitted last year about a note my brother gave me that stopped me from running away and helped put things in a better perspective in my teenage brain. My brother read it and laughed at me. He claims he doesn’t even remember doing it. He said that doesn’t count as a “gift”. So I’m resubmitting with a literal gift. I’m glad he can’t read this until after Christmas because his GIFT this year is a framed print of the Time Man of the Year Magazine cover–1985. I used an app to put his teenage face on the cover. I think this will be both hilarious and memorable!
There are so many gifts over the years that have meant a lot to me, especially quilts made by my mom, dish towels embroidered by my Grandma, paintings drawn by my kids. This time of year, when decorating the Christmas tree, the gifts that ping at my heart and bring tears to my eyes, are the ornaments my grown children made as kids either in school, in Scouts, or at home in secret. You know, decorations using Styrofoam, tin foil, popsicle sticks, wrapping paper, toilet paper tubes, etc. And of those, the ones that have their pictures attached are especially endearing.
Flash forward 25-30 years and the icing on the cake is seeing my four grandchildren marvel at the pictures of their mom, aunt and uncle when they were their age, because yes I still put them on the tree. And I hope when I’m long gone, my children will put them on their trees, and their children will put them on their trees. Gifts don’t have to be big and fancy to be memorable. It’s the gifts that are homemade and come from the heart that have the most value.
So I been thinking for a week now about my most “special gift” and being older and not as materialistic as I once was, I have come to realize that those gifts were given to me roughly 40 years ago. Given to me in a big brick building on Rockton Ave. How can anything be more special than unconditional friendships. I certainly didn’t deserve them. And now 40 years later I can still call those people friends. We might not see each other more than a cpl times since we walked through the gym in our gowns and got a piece of paper but I would do almost anything for those people and like to think they would do the same for me just cause we’re friends. Tell me, short of having a child or being married…that gift of true friendship has to be close.
Thankful, Grateful, Appreciation…
As a 16 year old junior in high school, I remember my first time hearing the word “appreciate.” I didn’t just hear it, I soaked in the meaning and it resonated deeply within me.
That first time I really listened to the word… “appreciate”… my heart felt so full. I began to realize the significance of the word. Appreciation means being deeply thankful for that which I’ve recognized to be beneficial and that which may not be as apparent.
Personally, I’ve learned that appreciation fills a void in my life. When I feel useless, or depressed, I remember how thankful I am for all that I have in my life. Gratitude keeps me grounded.
My most prized possession was given to me long ago when I was a baby. It’s a two foot tall stuffed animal – a polar bear, who I simply named “Mr. Bear.”
Although I grew up with two brothers, they are so much older than I am. I felt like an only child for a big part of my childhood, except I always had Mr. Bear. This bear has become so significant in my life that even today, it is the one comfort I have as an adult when depression and anxiety creep into my life. This seemingly insignificant childhood toy has become my saving grace during these emotionally testing times.
Gratitude is and always will be a constant part of my life. I honestly don’t think I’d have a life to live without Mr. Bear. He was my first dance partner. He keeps my heart beating. Who knew a grown woman would rely on a stuffed animal for company at night when no one else is there to hold? I appreciate you, Mr. Bear.
The best gift I ever received was my original birth certificate, the one from Illinois, which listed my genetic birth parents.
I have always known my circumstances as an adopted child, and I was loved and raised and cared for. However, as someone very different from the family that raised me, I always wanted to know my birth origins. My nature versus my nurture. The idea that there were people in the world who looked like me; my eyes and hair color, my big ears.
Receiving my original birth certificate was a pandora’s box of answers and problems, new relationships, and challenges. It was also the best gift I’ve ever received.
Thanks for letting me briefly share the best gift I ever received.
C. Deborah O.
OKay, so this is embarrassing and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it to a stranger, but I saw on FB that this person recently passed away and the memory hit me like a tidal wave. When I was in junior high, I “became a woman” in the middle of Algebra class. I was totally unprepared, naïve and totally embarrassed, so when the teacher, Mrs. Joyce, asked to speak with me after class, I assumed that in addition to being embarrassed, I was also in trouble. When the room was empty she opened her closet, grabbed some stuff and came to sit in the desk next to me. She offered me her track suit jacket and two folded maxi-pads. She told me to wrap it around my waist to hide my butt and go to the bathroom. She was so cool about it. The items were great, but honestly, the ‘lasting gift’ was the advice she gave me. “First, always carry two. Also, flush the toilet as you peel the strip so no one will hear it. Your body is nobody’s business.” I think of that advice monthly, lol. Farewell, Mrs. Joyce, you will be missed.
Sarah M Q
Not sure if this story counts as one of Gifts and Gratitude, but the examples I read made me want to share my story. I met my wife when I was six. Her family moved into the house next door. Our moms became friends and we spent a lot of time together. She was my best friend. A few years later, my family moved away. I was really mad, sad, angry, but before we left, I gave her a note with a question and two boxes on it, one that said “yes”, one that said “no”. She marked a box and returned it to me. I tucked it away somewhere ‘safe’ and forgot about it. We were in different towns, different schools, our moms got new friends, we didn’t see each other for years! Reunited at a Freshmen dorm mixer almost eight years later, we fell right back into the friendship we had when we parted at age ten. A few years ago, my mother found that folded and smudged original note in a box of my old books and stuff. She gave it to me and I realized I had written, “Will you marry me?”. And she had put an ‘x’ in the yes box! I framed the note and gave it to my wife for our thirtieth anniversary. Thanks for letting me share our love “note”.
“If you never believe anything else I’ve said, believe this…”
Eighteen, holding my infant son, I sat inches away from Sister Clotilde in the Ursuline Convent’s parlor adjacent to my high school. Eight months earlier, in the secretive early 60s I’d been expelled for becoming a pregnant teen. Sister taught my older brothers and me science, philosophy and theology. To no avail, she urged my principle, a position she’d held years earlier, to allow me to complete my senior year in spite of my transgression. I knew what Sister Clotilde intended to tell me, continue your education, complete high school, go to college and graduate as your parents and older brothers did ; her words a similar message to my mother’s mantra, “Every woman must be educated and able to support herself.”
Sister Clotilde disrupted my musings, “Years go fast, faster than you can imagine.” She placed her hand on my knee. Her fingertips graced my infant’s leg. “Don’t be a parent who looks back and says, ‘I wish I had taken more time with my children.’” Her voice rose in a gentle admonition, “Your chores can wait until after they are in bed.” She soothed, “Always make time for you children.”
My family grew – no matter the challenges I shouldered – in the evenings, after dinner and when chores tempted me I settled on the floor and built block houses and forts, played Pick- up-Sticks, Tiddlywinks, Monopoly and Clue, and every night I read to my children from Golden Books, Just So Stories , Fairy Tales, Dr. Seuss books – a favorite; Green Eggs and Ham , which they memorized – Treasure Island and Mark Twains’ adventurous short stories and novels.
I earned my high school equivalency diploma and started college at the age of twenty- eight when my children were ten, six, and four while we lived within the uncertain pressure of their father’s alcohol abuse. His absences after work and late arrivals home afforded many opportunities for shared activities with my children. Often times we sat at the kitchen table and did our home-work together. I wonder how they remember the time I brought home my Vertebrate Zoology assignment to dissect a preserved-in-formaldehyde pregnant cat. I hope I didn’t traumatize them when I placed the bagged corpse on a large cookie sheet, sliced the bag open and recoiled from the pungent fumes. My children were thirteen, nine and seven; the dissection afforded a perfect opportunity for a sex education discussion. I revealed the internal organs, identified the fertilization path, and removed the kittens from the sacs enveloping them. Even now I question the sanity of bringing home that particular home work.
When May 1978 arrived, Sister Clotilde, in her seventies, boarded a bus in Decatur, IL bound for Joliet, IL to attend my cum laude graduation from The College of St Francis. I was thirty-one and had earned a Bachelor of Science degree. My joy swelled when I heard my children, my mother, and Sister Clotilde cheering the loudest as I received my diploma and had an honor’s stole slipped over my head. Now, forty-two years later I share Sister Clotilde’s wisdom with my granddaughter, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, who joyfully handed me a pillow emblazoned with, “EXCELLENT Grandmas GET PROMOTED TO Great Grandmas .”
THANK YOU to everyone who submitted to this post. Thank you for sharing your Gifts and Gratitude with others.
Not as many submissions this year as last, but that’s okay. It’s been a rough year and motivation may be hard to muster. As long as you are grateful, you possess the greatest of gifts.
May you all have a very Happy Healthy (and productive) New Year!