Monday, January 5, 2009

A Thought for the New Year

There are often gifts that we receive that mean more to the person giving them than to the receiver. There was the fiber optic mechanical angel that we received from our elderly neighbor one Christmas that, despite my husband's repeated requests, I just can’t seem to get it from the basement closet out to the garbage can. God forbid she might see it in there! More importantly, I know that when she picked it out, it was done with a thoughtful heart. For that reason alone, we have a closet full of gifts that I just can’t justify parting with.

This fall, my husband’s grandmother passed away, and when my mother-in-law said that she had left a Christmas gift for us, I admit that I had high hopes. I could tell by her enthusiasm that it had meant something to her. Unsure of what this might be, I tentatively opened up a small, red, sequined box shaped like a Christmas light. I feigned enthusiasm as my mother-in-law explained that she had left this especially for us. Turning it over, I realized that it once contained chocolates. Clearly, this was something that the average person would have thrown out (after all, if we kept every pretty box and ribbon, our home would be a disaster area!). However, this box obviously had meant something to my husband’s grandmother. Perhaps it had been given to her by her husband on their first Christmas or by a dear friend. Or maybe this small box reminded her of a special Christmas that her family had spent together. I probably will never know what made her keep this box. Maybe she just thought it was too pretty to throw away. I knew right away that I had to keep this, and that it deserved a special place in our home.

In the end, I decided that we would keep the box on the coffee table in our living room every year during the holidays, and we would make it our family suggestion box. Each family member would be allowed to make one request each week and the rest of our family would have to honor it. My husband’s request was that we pick up after ourselves, my request of course was that he be a little more laid back about the typical messes that families make, and my daughter requested that we all stop bickering (oh, the knowledge of six year olds these days).

So, that little red box with the sequins peeling off turned out to be a very special gift to our family this Christmas and always. I am certain that Grandma Arlene would happy to know that it has a special place within our family and that we are honoring her and her gift to us.

This holiday season, take a moment to look beyond the gifts you receive and remember the people behind the ribbon and paper. Happy New Year to you and your families, and may 2009 bring you lots of red, shiny boxes with hidden surprises.

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