Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gifts that stay with us

Through the years of my childhood, I received a lot of presents. Never, somehow, as many as I thought I wanted, but always more than enough. I could name a lot of them very specifically even now, but there are two basic trends in Christmas presents that I want to reflect on.

First, for the first several years of my life, until I was probably 9 or 10, one of my grandmothers gave me savings bonds every year. For some of those later years, I might have preferred to have gotten toys, but of course those toys would themselves have been forgotten or put aside before too long. There are two points to make about these gifts: one, they paid off well into the future, and also at a time when I had a better idea what to do with money. They stop paying interest after 30 years, so it's only been in the last few years that I've started cashing them in. I could have done so sooner, but they pay far better interest than anyone else would just now. The second thing to note about these gifts is that they set up a pattern, they suggested the importance of long-term planning, of fiscal responsibility. I don't mean that I understood any of that as a 10-year-old, but receiving savings bonds for Christmas was part of that gradual process.

The other, even more important gifts I received while growing up were books. I would be hard-pressed to name specific titles, but I can tell you that some were specifically asked for and others were not, but in either case they were appreciated, and in either case they fed my love of books and my love of reading, which I have no doubt has been an important part of my growth as a person. I'm sure I did better in school because I was a reader. I'm sure I've done better at all sorts of things because I believed that  could learn about most anything from books, and as a result I always had teachers--in the form of books--available to teach me what I wanted to know. To this day, a book that's given because someone who knows me knows that I will find it interesting or a good read is one of the most joyously received presents I'm likely to get--and a gift card to Borders or Amazon won't be unappreciated either!

Readers, what are some gifts that have stayed with you, either individually or as a class?


  1. What immediately comes to mind is the little crystal cat my brother got for me one year -- I don't even remember if it was for Christmas or birthday. But it was special considering how little (positive) attention he ever gave me...

  2. I've often received books for Christmas, from friends from time to time, but generally from my Aunt P. who is the "book aunt" in our family. (Does every family have a book aunt? If not, they should.) Following her lead, I have become the book aunt for my own nieces and nephews.

    My mother, from the time I was tiny, always made most of my presents. The year I turned eight, she spent hours creating wedding clothes for my entire collection of Barbie dolls (and their escorts). They were gorgeous, but, sadly, they got lost in a move.

    My favorite gifts, though are the ornaments she gave me, one a year, all my life, always representative of something we'd done together or something I was interested in. How many people do YOU know who have glass alligator ornaments, for example, or gilded starfish (sorry, Sea Stars) on their trees?

    As to your note on my blog: The made-with-sugar Dr. Pepper is known here in Texas (where it's made) as "Dublin" Dr. Pepper. They sell it in the grocery store...in six packs...of glass bottles.

  3. Dublin Dr. Pepper! I probably would have come up with that if I'd thought about it long enough (or asked my wife... or looked it up on the internet). :) When I first heard about it, I thought it must *really* be an import, from across the ocean and not just from that strange country called Texas!

    And yes, I too had a book aunt. For quite a while she was my favorite aunt for exactly that reason!