The month of December is a month with wonderful memories of Christmases past. As kids we always enjoyed the different joyous aspects of this holiday. Certainly high on our list of memories would be our school vacations that usually began at the end of the Friday before Christmas. So some weeks when Christmas fell on a Friday school vacation could have begun a week before. And if snow fell in that week there were chances to make a few bucks by shoveling driveways and walks. Whatever we got paid it would add to the small amount of money we would have saved for buying gifts and this was a miracle. In the realm of miracles there was also a chance to receive a card from Uncle Frank in which he would send to each of us a significant amount of money- my memory seems to think his gifts over the years averaged out to be around ten dollars. And ten bucks in 1955 was equal to twenty bucks now. Whatever the amount it would help pay for the gifts on our gift lists and we would feel less worried that we would be emptied handed when it came to gift sharing on Christmas. Whether it was a tie for my father or chocolates for my mother and surprises for my sister and brother, having some way to buy a gift was extra special.
This was especially true when my gifts before were gifts made in school, e.g., a place mat or colorful drawings or a match box holder. All these gifts were special from our hearts but then gifts purchased with our own money was reason for us to know we had entered the commercial world. We were told, and I guess believed, that “bought” gifts were “better” gifts. Today this commercial participation by everybody provides lots of “things” as gifts but not the gifts with the same feeling of the “home/school made”gifts.
One of the best gifts I remember giving was a letter I wrote to my grandmother-“Nana”. This gift was the result of my mother asking me to compose a letter to Nana supposedly written and sent to Nana by my Uncle John. It seems that Nana had fallen and fractured her left hip and was recuperating in a local nursing home. But during this time Nana’s mind began to slip and her memory of recent past was skimpy at best. She had forgotten that her son,who had been living in Arizona, wasn’t able to visit her this coming Christmas. However, Nana thought for sure her son was visiting her that coming Christmas. Our mother had grown tired of trying to correct Nana’s mistaken idea but nothing was changing Nana’s mind. So mother thought that if I composed a letter with the signature of Uncle John it would help Nana accept the fact that her son John wasn’t able to visit her at this time. I resisted at first but decided that my letter would be a wonderful gift for my mother!
“Dear Mama,” I wrote. “Although I thought all of us, Helen, Jane and Joan could visit you for the holidays but due to my work we won’t be able to come. I know that you will have a wonderful Christmas with all of the Murphy’s. We hope that we will be able to visit you in the summer. Right now that is our plan and we all look forward to visiting you. By then your hip will be healed and we will all go to Nantasket beach. You get better soon. Love you, John”
Our mom reviewed what I wrote and with a big kiss she thanked me. Later that Christmas week she took the letter to Nana and read it to her. Nana seemed to accept that her son wouldn’t be making a Christmas visit that year from Arizona. And Nana stopped insisting that her son was coming for Christmas. Peace of mind was given to all.
My mother always said I gave her the best gift ever. And with Nana satisfied that her son planned on a future visit her hip soon got better and she came home from the nursing home soon after the New Year.
Gifts come in all sizes and shape. That year for me to help my mother with our Nana’s inability to accept the reality of a missing son for Christmas was the best gift I ever gave my mother!
Love to all,