Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Best Presents Ever

I mean real ones--NOT some sappy "the smile in my darling child's eyes' kind of presents.

My sister spent a week over Thanksgiving with me, and at one point, we talked about the best Christmas gifts we ever received.

My sister remembered the Kodak Swinger camera she got when she was in high school in the '60's. I remember that one, too, because I was SO jealous. It was a Polaroid camera that allowed us to see the (small, black and white) pictures immediately after she took them. It was quite the process--take the picture, lay it out flat, rub it all over with this tube of gunk, then sit back and bask in the admiration of all her friends. I know it doesn't sound like much in this age of camera phones, but you have to trust me--it was a really big deal and a wonderful gift.

I can think of two gifts I've received in the past ten years that I love and still use--one is a very slender 4 cup Nissen thermos bottle. It fits in my briefcase and has saved me untold amounts of money that would otherwise be spent in coffee shops.

Another is a pair of YakTrax. These are essentially chains for one's shoes. They fit over the bottom of boots or shoes and keep me upright on icy sidewalks. (The picture shows them being used over heavy shoes, but I've worn them on the bottoms of my work flats.) I'm a large and clumsy woman at the best of times--if it gets icy outside, forget it! But I've never fallen, never even slipped, while wearing these great contraptions.

I've asked a bunch of folks over the past week about their best-remembered gifts. Funny how none of the responses were about big-ticket items.

One woman treasures the (umm, can you say UGLY? I can because I saw it!) Christmas pin that her then-four year old son bought her one year. He's 35 now, and still sends her, among other presents, one ugly Christmas pin per year--that collection has made her laugh for two decades.

Another woman is still using the one-cup Chem-Ex coffee-maker her two step-sons bought her nearly twenty years ago--she says she thinks about those kids every morning when she uses their gift.

But the best gift I think is the magnifying glass an old friend of mine got from her big brother one Christmas. He really wanted it for himself, but he bought it for her. Up to that point, she was a girly-girl, and, in fact, I first met her when she offered my doll a ride in her doll's baby buggy when we were both five years old. But that one little gift opened up a world of science to her at at time when most girls didn't go there. She's been a biologist her entire adult life. Three weeks ago, she retired from a mid-west University.

Yes, she still has the magnifying glass. These days, she uses it to read the daily paper.


Nicole said...

Hm, those gifts make the warm yoga pants (last Christmas) I'm wearing seem pretty tame. But I totally appreciate them!

Yay for the brother giving a magnifying glass! Around here people are always saying "there's definitely a difference between boys and girls, just look at how into trucks and/or dinosaur boys are." But girls are just not given the opportunity to be into such things. ALL the kids at DS's preschool are bonkers about dinosaurs right now, but at the birthday parties, the boys get dinosaur paraphernalia (and trucks and superhero stuff) and the girls get princess stuff.

We give books about dinosaurs. :)

Anonymous said...

That's tough because I have to say, I've gotten some GOOD practical and meaningful things in my life and it's hard to remember what gift was given for what occasion. I've been really lucky in that respect. The MOST useful would have to be a hair iron my former boss got me about five years ago. I would NEVER buy myself an expensive hair iron but he did and it blew my mind how easy it is. Never being one to want to spend much time or effort on my hair this thing is a super huge blessing. Silly, yes, but that's usually the way it works. It makes me feel like a different person when I take a few minutes to pass it through my hair and that usually has an impact on my day too.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no idea when I ever received a decent gift at Christmas. All of them sucked and the fact that I can't remember one just shows me how nonsensical the gift giving idea is.

What I can tell you, however, down to the last soup-to-nuts-meals are the many, many holiday gatherings I have had with my family over the years. I can tell you, what year, who was there, what we ate, what was said, what jokes were told, etc. etc.......but what gift I received? Not a clue.

Needless to say, I am NOT a good gift giver either. But the meal I make you will have been memorable!

Go figure.

LC said...

Such a great post!

Mysti said...

Mine wasn't a Christmas present...it was a "just because I love you" present.

My daughters had just died, and I was trying to hold it all together. Then my toaster flaked out. At that time, my daughter was WAY into toast, and not having a toaster was tragic in her eyes.

My friend bought me a toaster and mailed it from half way across the country. She spent more on shipping it than on the toaster itself. And the note on the brown paper packaging was something like "I am so sorry I am not there....hope this makes your morning easier."

Grace. said...

Ah Mystie--sometimes, it really IS the thought that counts!