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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)

TITLE: Second Best Gift
By Margaret Gass


The piles on the bed were overwhelming…that must have been why Mom sent us into the room. She had done all of her business Christmas shopping in one night, and the crowded mall, filled with other last-minute shoppers, had been her undoing. She had no patience, much less Christmas spirit, left. She had divided her purchases into two piles, and my sister and I were going to be her “elves.” We were told to wrap the gifts any way that we wanted. She pointed out a few gifts that had to have both ribbons and bows, and then collapsed on the couch while we spent the next hour or so wrapping. After we were finished, we learned that we had actually wrapped our own gifts as well, because she put “Love, Mom” tags on the boxes with the fancy ribbons!

As a single mother, Mom tried hard to do a little extra at Christmas. Most of our gifts were items that we needed, like socks, underwear, and sweaters, but she always made sure we had one “big” gift that was for fun. That big gift was always opened last. It was also the first gift that we touched as soon as she put presents under the tree, in spite of her “DO NOT TOUCH!” warnings, so she hid our big gifts well. (In 1972, she hid our big gifts so well that my sister and I opened fancy winter coats in July!) As we got older, she turned instead to creative packaging, in part because our budget didn’t allow for her memory to fail.

She wrapped boxes inside boxes and weighted those boxes with rocks. She wanted clothes to sound like games, and games to sound like books. One Christmas, we all got canned--a charity group at the mall placed wrapped gifts inside decorated cans of all sizes--and though it made guessing more difficult, it also made for an exhausting morning, as we didn’t have a “comfort grip” can opener! Today’s gift bags are a double blessing, because they can disguise the hard-to-wrap gifts, and be re-used. Some years the bag is as special as what it contains, and we make sure to pass these back and forth among family.

As I think about the gifts themselves, only a few stand out: my first stereo, my sister’s bike, and the first gifts I bought Mom with my own money. I am known for what Mom politely calls “unusual” gifts…she means “practical, homemade, or downright strange.” One year I gave Mom a stepladder that doubles as a stool because she kept saying she needed one once my step-dad died. And though she teased me about it then, she uses it constantly and thanks me for it every Christmas as she tells her friends about her “unusual” eldest daughter’s gift ideas. I prefer the term “thoughtful,” and will continue to give such gifts, because I actually believe it’s the “thought that counts.”

Christmas is about love and giving to others. I learned about both of these concepts from my mom, who to this day remains a generous giver. But there is more to Christmas than what Mom gave me. For her, the emphasis is on “spirit of Santa” inside all of us, measured by the giving of presents. I learned long ago that Christmas isn’t really about presents, it’s about Jesus, and His presence in our lives. I knew that the greatest gift ever given was the gift of Jesus, but I didn’t really understand how great a gift it was until 1989.

In March 1989, I learned that I was pregnant with my first child, due in mid-December. Filled with both anticipation and anxiety, I read everything I could about pregnancy and childcare. I poured over my Bible, too, scanning the Scriptures for references to parenting and reading the Christmas story. When I was still pregnant two weeks after my due-date, I found myself living the Christmas story in a way I never imagined: when we arrived at the hospital on Christmas Eve, there were no rooms to be had. I was on a bed in the hallway before someone wheeled me into a supply closet. I eventually got a room, and I gave birth to a son, Matthew, whose name means, “Gift of God.” Then, and only then, did I understand what Love gave that first Christmas night. After Jesus, my son is my favorite Christmas gift, one that I get to enjoy and learn from every day.

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This article has been read 442 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rachel Stone11/20/08
Wow! What a paralell the birth of your son, Matthew to the birth of the TRUE Gift, Jesus. That's a story in itself! Thanks for sharing.
Lisa Cox11/20/08
Really nice reflection...
cindy yarger11/21/08
Interesting and well written. Good job.
Joy Bach 11/23/08
What a wonderful submission! Sounds like you had an unusual mother. And you received a very special gift for Christmas. Good writing.
Marlene Austin11/24/08
Precious memories and sweet memoir. :)
Connie Dixon11/24/08
I really like your line that Christmas is not about presents but it is about Jesus' presence in our lives.....and yes, it's the thought that counts. Good job!
Catrina Bradley 11/25/08
I'm reminded of my own mom, and the year I wrapped some of my own presents, too. I enjoyed going down memory lane with you, and hearing about the Christmas Eve, no room at the "inn", story of Matthew's birth.