The Gift of a Lifetime

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Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Like me, today you are probably wrapping the last of the stocking stuffers, preparing to cook a lovely Christmas Eve dinner or welcome family and friends to celebrate Christmas Day.

At some point today, I will stop and take a break, grab a cup of hot tea or spindle of sherry, and spend a few minutes away from the hectic pace of the holidays to sit and gaze at our tree and reflect on the year. I will count our many blessings despite a 2010 that had its challenges.  And I will pick up the faded old copy of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” from my childhood, which I set out on our coffee table each year, and read it for the umpteenth time.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is in this book, written in 1957 by Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionately known as “Dr. Seuss.”

You know the story, how on Christmas morning, after pilfering all the Whos’ presents in Who-ville the night before, the Grinch stood at the top of Mount Crumpit looking down on Who-ville awaiting the “boo-hoo’s” he was sure would float up the mountain to his grumpy old ears.  But no!  As the story (and my favorite quote) goes:

“And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling:  ‘How could it be so?’

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

It came without packages, boxes or bags!

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.’

‘Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!’”

 

I think Dr. Seuss was really on to something.  And I am glad I grew up reading those words and that they still make me smile. Funny how some things stick.

When my brother and I were grown, our family would opt now and then to scale the gift giving element of the holidays down to a moderate level and celebrate Christmas by picking names for a “Secret Santa” exchange, or impose a rule that only experiences, or something hand-made could be given. Talent was not necessary, it was the imagination or creation that made the gift more personal, and that was the whole point.

We’ve had some fun and inventive results to these gift giving rules.  And when I think about it, those were the gifts I really liked receiving best, and they were certainly the ones I enjoyed giving the most.

I think my best effort to date along this line is a gift that I have often recommended, especially to friends pondering what to give their special someone who “has everything.”  Though it takes some time and forethought, it is worth the effort.

Here’s the way I did it:  For a few months before the holidays, each night I would take out a pad of paper and write all my memories surrounding my parents.  Things like: “I remember when I was 15, you taught me how to drive our Honda stick shift” or “I remember all our trips to Lake San Marcos and the pontoon boats” or “I remember our weekend family picnics at Descanso Gardens.” You get the idea.

Side note: one of the rules of this gift is that it is about the positive, so leave out the “I remember when you yelled at me in the middle of Toys R Us when I was acting like a brat.”

After writing out 365 memories for each of my parents (these span childhood to the present), I printed them out on pretty paper, cut them in to individual strips, folded and put them all in a decorative box with a ribbon-tied note on the outside that says “I remember … .”  The idea behind the gift is that the recipient can open the box each day of the year and pull out a memory that is uniquely part of your relationship.

My Dad liked his so much that he took every strip of paper and had them all laminated on to a desk pad.  Today when I look at it on his desk, I am amused at the things I remembered and glad I got them down for posterity. I am not sure I could recall them all today!  The good news is that as the years go by, more memories can be added to the box at any time, so it is the gift that keeps on giving.  And this is a gift you can give your wife, husband, brother, sister…. you name it.

So I hope we’ll all remember the timeless lesson of the Grinch again this year.  It’s not necessarily all about the stuff, but the family and friends you enjoy the holidays with and the memories you create.

Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach and can be reached at [email protected]

             

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