Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Greatest Gift

None of us are rich, monetarily speaking. None of us have ever, for example, dived beneath the Christmas tree and found the keys to a fancy new car. Or even a new car. Or just a car.

No expensive jewelry, costly perfume, cutting edge electronics, designer clothes...none of those exotic gifts that grace so many homes this time of year. We can't afford them, it's true, but even if we could, I don't think we would. For us, the greatest gift doesn't automatically mean the most expensive. In fact, the less wealthy we all are, the more creative our gifts become. Most cost very little, and some nothing at all!

In our crowd, you can never go wrong with edibles, many of them tenderly home-made. I personally like them best for the children, since even if - okay, when - they throw the wrappers all over the floor, they get picked up and cause no further mess till the next year. Some gifts are both edible and thoughtful. Last year, I found a place to order Jack his favorite kind of veggie ribs, and he was thrilled. This year, Mom found him a couple kinds of BBQ sauce based on popular soda flavors. We have no idea yet what these bizarre creations taste like, but we all had a good laugh imagining the possibilities. 

Books, usually used and nearly always vintage or hard-to-find, are also popular. Mom just got Damon two books by Peter Hathaway Capstick, an extraordinary hunter and author. The fact that I have been trying to get my hands on those books myself is pure coincidence. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with a multitasking present. And Tina got the hilarious photo essay, "101 Uses for My Ex-Wife's Wedding Dress". 

Caleb got Damon and Devon each a pair of hockey skates (used, of course), and John got his mom a snuggie. It will come in very handy if she can just get the time to sit down.

Then there are the 'special' presents. Most often snapped up in thrift stores or on clearance racks, these chance finds are both inexpensive and perfectly suited to the recipient. Tina got me a lovely soft blue sweater, and a vibrant purple hat/scarf/gloves set. I had been meaning to get myself an adorable winter hat, better suited to a delicate bus driver than the full-face ski mask (aka bank robber hat) I wear to shovel snow.

Mom found me a couple of VHS movies that I remember fondly from my childhood. That does not make them vintage, no matter what the item description might say.
"Bag 'em, Danno!"

Mom received a cute little gadget whose purpose at first escaped her. Sewed from lacy, acid-washed blue jeans, it's a hanging tube that holds plastic bags. You know, those bags from the grocery store that you always see in the Man Harming Wildlife documentaries, because so many get thrown away rather than re-used. Well, around here, those plastic bags play a vital role in the containment of certain, ahem, hazardous waste by-products from an anonymous incontinent family member. (We'll call him Strandpa.) Now Mom can dispose in style! I'm sure the garbage men will be grateful.

There was a new category of gifts under the tree this year, with only the cost of wrapping paper. Let's just say it takes re-gifting to a whole new level. Basically, you liberate - a nice way of saying "steal" - the person's stuff, and then give it back to them. 

Tina used to play a version of this game with our brothers when she was little. First, she would steal a whole bunch of their stuff. Then she would open a store, and charge them actual cash money to redeem their own belongings. Upon complaining to Mom, they were told to play nicely with their sister. It was a nice racket. They are still bitter.

The gift version is a little kinder and gentler, since there is not actually a price attached. A few weeks before Christmas, Tina found one of Devon's favorite toys, a plastic parachute man with a working parachute. He had lost it several months before, and it had slipped my mind to give it back once it was found. An honest mistake. Really.

When Devon opened it, he was pretty blase. "Auntie, I already have one of these." We all began snickering as he turned it over and over to inspect it more closely. "And mine is blue, just like this one."

The roar of laughter nearly drowned out Tina as she told him, "Yours looks just like that one, because that one is yours."

And then Tina found out that she was not the only one who had caught re-gifting fever.

Oh, goody. Here's my platter.

This looks familiar, too.

She didn't mind a bit. When it comes to presents, she's always been a quantity over quality kinda gal. If you gave her a pack of licorice, she'd be happy. If you gave her the same pack, with each piece individually wrapped, she'd be thrilled!

Caleb got his own little surprise, too - the Bible he had forgotten at church only that morning.

Wow. Thanks, Uncle Jack.
Jack had already gotten an uncharacteristically pricey gift for me - a dishwasher. After 3 1/2 years of washing entirely by hand, I had gotten used to doing dishes the same way as when I was a kid. (Minus spending hours flicking giant bubbles in my dishwater.) However I can promise you that it will not even take me .07 seconds to adjust to having a dishwasher again. The kindness, thoughtfulness, and love that prompted it will stay with me all year. There are a few, a very few presents you just can't find at the thrift store.

Every now and again, though, the opportunity comes along to give The Gift - that one perfect present that a beloved family member has been longing for, and just hadn't been able to get. This year was Tina's turn. She had always wanted a rock garden.

Jack had been telling her for a while now that he was getting her rocks for Christmas, and that is what he did. With some help from children and small cousins, we collected rounded stones from a field, left there several thousand years ago by a passing glacier. Wrapping them was a family collaboration.

Jack and Damon helped...

...and so did Potto.

It's hard to believe how well his fur has grown back!

The finished rock garden.

Tina was thrilled. You can see the joy all over her face. But hey, some of them were individually wrapped.

No, wait..........there might be something else.......................................

Each year, I think we do a little better at capturing the true spirit of The Greatest Gift. This season isn't about selfish gratification, price tags, or credit card bills. It's about family togetherness and love. The bonds we form with family and friends give honor to the greatest gift of all, when God sent His Son to earth, to become ours now and forever.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Praying for God's peace to guide us as we enter the new year,
Noni Beth


  1. I totally love you people!
    - Kimmy

  2. I totally love you and your biggers and littles, too! <3

    Merry Christmas, Kimmy!

  3. I love the way you guys do Christmas!

  4. I just LOVE that picture of Tina. She was SO not expecting a camera!