It was a Norman Rockwell Christmas eve as we drove through the snow-covered roads into the small downtown square surrounded by tiny shops alive with colored lights and shoppers rushing to check off that final gift from their list. The snow began to fall at a faster pace as with a chill I sat curled up in the front seat between my parents. My heart was alive with the joy and expectation of Christmas…perhaps the reason that throughout the years this has remained one of my earliest memories. My father parked the car and helped my two older sisters (who couldn’t have been more than 4 and 6 years old), slide out of the backseat onto the slippery sidewalk. As they rushed into a nearby store, I wished I could have tagged along; nevertheless, I was content watching the sites of Christmas through the car windows with my mother.
A few minutes later, my father and the girls returned with rosy cheeks and smiling faces. The proprietor of the jewelry store had given each girl a small snowman from the store display. Over the years…beyond the time we children had grown and left home… those two snowmen were displayed prominently every Christmas in our family home together with the tree and all the traditional trimmings. They were referred to as the snowmen from Roger Briney’s Jewelers. I never asked what last-minute gift my father had purchased that Christmas eve so many years ago, but that night was a special memory.
That memory became enlightened this past summer when my husband Jim and I were visiting my hometown…most specifically to visit my aunts and uncles. As always, it was a precious time together. As is our tradition, I spend the last few hours talking with my aunts…both catching up on family happenings and reminiscing over times past.
As I sat down on the couch to chat, my Aunt Shirley Ann rose up from the couch and returned with a large gift bag. She sat next to me and pulled out a large, somewhat aged box wrapped with a red ribbon and a card addressed to my aunt and uncle in my mother’s handwriting. As I opened the card and gift, I discovered it was the card and gift she had given them for their 40th wedding anniversary. Inside the box was a lovely glass platter commemorating that special day. All were preserved perfectly, and she explained she would like Jim and I to have it for our 40+ years of marriage…a gift my mother had given them. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness.
Aunt Shirley Ann then reached into the gift bag and retrieved a small box. As I opened the tiny jewelry box, I discovered a lovely vintage ring. Within the intricate gold setting was an emerald cut peridot, my birthstone. My initial thought leapt to the recognition that she and I shared the same birth month. I always knew her birthday was in August, but had never thought about us sharing the same birthstone. Again I was so taken back by her immeasurable thoughtfulness…that she would give me her birthstone ring! Then she began to explain it was given to her by my father. The tears began to flow down my cheeks at as I realized how my father, who had passed away so many years ago before I was able to know him as an adult, had personally purchased this very ring for her. As I placed it on my finger, she proceeded to tell me he had given it to her one Christmas…that he bought it at Roger Briney’s Jewelers! My mind raced as I flashed back to that Christmas eve so many years ago…to the sites and sounds of that special childhood memory. Could it have been that same night? The more we talked, the more we became convinced it was the same night. I was overwhelmed by Aunt Shirley Ann’s heartfelt sensitivity. Just as I had lost my father, she had lost a brother at such a young age. She understood the depth of the gift she had given me…not just a tangible gift, but a connection to my father.
Although I thought the gift bag was empty, Aunt Shirley Ann proceeded to pull out a final gift. Within the tissue wrapping was a hand crocheted doily made by my grandmother. As I held it in my hand, I pictured the twinkle in my grandmother’s eyes and how that twinkle turned into a flash of a wink when she smiled at me. I felt the importance of family….a value that had been instilled within me throughout the generations…one that Jim and I strive to pass on to our children and grandchildren. This is the season of joy, peace and love…a time to share our love through the offering of gifts and hospitality. Aunt Shirley Ann wanted me to have a gift given to her from each my mother, my father and my grandmother. Those gifts are precious to me. Those memories are precious to me. However, it is her love that was wrapped up in that gift bag that will live forever in my heart. It is that same love that we give and the love that we receive that lives within our hearts.
This Christmas may your hearts reflect upon precious memories of the past and the vision of new memories to come with those you love and those who cross your paths. May the gifts you share come with love that lightens the heart. May God open our hearts with his spirit of joy, peace and love–that is, the most precious gift of all, his son Jesus. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!