Family

The thoughtful gifts make the holiday even brighter

Chris Ware

Just by way of full disclosure, I don't generally give especially thoughtful gifts.

In my 20s, I once did all my holiday shopping at Walgreens — in one night.

Yes, sister, you're still welcome for the teddy bear in the sweater that sings Blue Christmas like Elvis.

For additional proof, just check the Meehan family photos from Christmas Eve 2008. During what has become known as the Great Snuggie Christmas, the entire extended Meehan clan received Snuggies. In fact, I bought out the Snuggie inventory of the Scott County CVS. I thought it was both functional and funny. It's a blanket with sleeves!

Whether my family liked it, I'm not sure, but I still get a kick out of the image of my brother, a professional Santa, in his leopard-spotted Snuggie.

Some people are just excellent gift-givers. I am not.

But sometimes, because I think ahead and try do to something special, and sometimes, because I am perpetually poor at Christmas, I give something from the heart.

This is a bit of a family trait. There are always some crafts and baked goods exchanged during my family's Christmas. Most members of my family have received a scarf from me. A few have even worn them.

One year, one of my sisters, who is a teacher, promised another sister, a nurse, that she would go to the doctor because she hadn't gone in years.

She gave the gift of peace of mind that year.

Last year I promised my five brothers and sisters that I would talk to my 83-year-old mom, put her stories on Facebook and share them all in some form at the end of the year. I called it "Gabbing with Geneva."

It's been a gift for all of us, I think. I know it helped me see my mom, who had five kids when I was born, as a pretty bold, independent young woman not unlike my younger self. And, unfortunately, a lot like her bold, independent 15-year-old granddaughter.

We've talked about Easter traditions and the Great Flood in Louisville that ravaged the family home, her wedding and the fact that my dad dubbed her Midge, because she is tiny and he was tall, and how that nickname stuck.

That, by the way, is why it's "Gabbing with Geneva," because after my dad died, my mom tried to reclaim her original name — with limited success. Again, something I didn't know.

"Gabbing with Geneva," unexpectedly, struck a chord for a far-flung circle of cousins and old family friends. The stories my mom shared of her childhood can't be told by her brothers and sisters because most of them have passed.

It's been fun to see everyone add bits and pieces to fill out the pictures and for others to add their own memories.

Years before the Great Snuggie Christmas of 2008, each brother and sister received a framed photo that was a copy of a painting that had hung in our house when we were little. I'd laid claim to the painting via a lottery system that sometimes came into play as my parents aged and got rid of stuff. The photos allowed all my siblings to share the painting my dad had made in Korea when he was in the Army. It was a painting of my parents both looking young and gorgeous.

Last year, I wrote the story of my daughter's birth and gave it to her. She happened to be born on Christmas Eve, and I remember there was mangled singing of Christmas carols involved while I was endlessly walking the hospital corridors to promote labor. I believe Jingle Bells that night went something like "Giving birth, giving birth, it's time to give birth! We're here now, I'm big like a cow. It's time to give birth, Yeah!"

The tale includes the moment I first held her: "I could feel your heart beat in sync with mine and I never knew I could love anything as much as I loved you."

She might instead have acted as if she would have preferred an iTunes gift card when given the envelope, but she keeps it in the nightstand by her bed.

I sometimes manage to give thoughtful gifts to people who have been on my naughty list. For example, most of the artwork displayed in my ex-husband's house is framed photos of him with our daughter or pictures of her that were Christmas presents from me.

So I guess the thing that all these presents have in common, aside from possibly being construed as the easiest possible way to avoid shopping, is that I hoped each would really touch the receiver in a way that lasted longer than the gift wrapping that covered them.

Sometimes I know it worked. My nephew is always asking for another Blarf, a knitted blanket made of sewn-together scarves, which are the only things I can manage to knit because of the minimal counting involved. (Math has never been my friend.) But a well-loved Blarf is proof, I guess, that a truly good intention can never go wrong.

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