Hi Kids: I know you will be sooo excited about Christmas, but you might feel, after everything is unwrapped, a bit of a let down. That’s growing up, sadly. One of the things we discover is that we have to make the presents special because we don’t actually need them. Instead, after all is opened, it’s time to take a second look at the presents and think about how much love went into choosing each one specially for you, or making them with you in mind and no one else. I remember a funny sweater I made Uncle Matt one year. It had one sleeve longer than the other, but he bravely wore it anyway.
When I was a little girl in Quebec, one of my father’ aunties, whom we called Great Aunt Maud, lived in a nursing home in New Brunswick. When she was young, she took care of her husband who had been disabled in World War 1. She shingled her own roof, and was strong enough that she could threaten to burst the seams on my father’s jackets. One famous story about her is that she was annoyed that the nursing home didn’t serve fresh strawberries, so she escaped, climbing over a fence even, in search of her own.
In any case, every Christmas, she would send us — me, my sister, Gayle, and maybe my brother Bill — a box of presents. She could never remember Gayle’s name so she called her Sheila for some reason. She had no money and no opportunity to shop so we would get re-gifts, thing that she either had received herself and didn’t want, couldn’t use, or things from her own few treasures. One year, my present was a pretty little necklace wrapped in tissue paper, that must have been hers at some point. Aunt Gayle — Sheila — received a boxed set of ladies panties with the days of the week on them. Since Gayle was only five, they were not much use to her. I think I delighted in Aunt Maud’s ingenuity and loved opening her presents, just to see what she conjured up.
I am telling you this story so that you will always be delighted by the gifts others bring you, not because of what they are but because of the love they express. And the stories you are making for your lifetime. My parents were born in 1919, almost a hundred years ago, so Great Aunt Maud was probably born 130 years ago. And yet, I remember her because of those crazy gifts and now you know about her too.
This year, all of you will receive one regift from me and there will be a story to go with the gift. I hope you will cherish these stories as they connect us as family, as a group of people who love each other even more than we love our stuff. And I hope you will look at every present in this way, as something others want to share with you to see they care about you.