The holiday hoopla is in full swing at my house as I carefully craft my never-ending to-do list. Magic, ironically, doesn’t magically happen. It requires preparation and planning and effort. The most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest for most of us as we scramble to make it all happen in an effort to preserve our precious traditions. Yes, it is hectic, but ultimately, worth it.
I have spent the afternoon wrapping gifts. As I tie a bow around each package, I hope that the recipients will be happy to receive them. It is always fun to plunder the attic to see what I have tucked away for family and friends. You see, I am a shopper (and no longer in denial about it). I am on the lookout year-round for the perfect thing for everyone on my list. Sometimes, I fall short, like the boots I bought for my oldest granddaughter one September. They were adorable, just her style, and I knew that she would be thrilled. So imagine the surprise on both of our faces when we discovered that I had bought her two left shoes. (Lesson learned: always check before you leave the store.) But it has become the stuff of family Christmas folklore, a story to be retold every year as we sit around the tree. I dare say the tale is more memorable than the gift might have been.
Presents can be personal, useful, extravagant, homemade, and even the silly ones are wonderful. The fact that somebody cares enough to choose something just for you is a tangible demonstration of their affection. And it is, of course, a nod to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the Wise Men bestowed on the baby Jesus so many years ago, a commemoration of the reason for the season. And so, in spite of what the glitz and gaudiness of mall marketing might otherwise indicate, gift giving is a special kind of annual exchange, a thoughtful token of who is important to us.
I have some lovely reminders of holidays past. A friend once gave me a beautifully-bound blank journal. On the first page were the words, “Write beautiful stories with happy endings.” I thought of that quiet challenge for months before settling down to write my first (and yet unfinished) tale. And in the years that have followed, I have come to understand that the true gift that year wasn’t in the object: it was in the wish for me, the person’s belief that I had the potential, the talent, the wherewithal to be a writer. Another friend gave me a lovely bookmark engraved with a quote attributed to George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” It came to me one Christmas as I pondered my future, wondering what the next chapter of my personal and professional life might be. I often daydreamed about the possibilities as I used it to mark the pages in whatever book I was reading. And one day I knew with reasonable certainty that I wanted to try my hand at writing. This year, an early present from my bestie was a mug that simply says, “I write. What is your superpower?” I have used it every morning for coffee because it makes me feel good and somehow assures me that I really truly am a budding author. I love it. Of course, there are other examples I could offer, memories of so many Christmases past, but these most recent standouts gave me a new direction, a challenge, a vision. With gratitude, I set my sails for the course they helped plot for me.
And so, as I think of what to give others during this Christmas season, I hope to be ever-mindful that the best presents are those that encourage, that support as well as delight. The inspiration to dream can often come in the least likely packages. Indeed, the true beauty in the holiday comes in the wishes we make for one another. Who could ask for anything more?
As for me, I am currently looking for the perfect pair of boots for my oldest granddaughter. She is graduating from high school this year, and I want her to step out into the world in style.