Right around this time each year, I get weepy. My mind has trouble focusing. I find myself lost in thought. Or simply lost. I go out for a walk with nothing particular on my mind, and I end up in tears, waves of memories and complicated truths flooding my head.
Today was one of those days where I walked and wept. At first for no particular reason other than the sad song on my playlist, then followed by the memory of missing souls from my life, and then the sadness at being so very far from much of the family I love. The same thoughts, I imagine, come to so many during this time of year. But as I walked (and as my playlist got lighter), I came back around to the gifts we give and receive that remain part of our memories. The gifts I remember aren’t the electronics or the skis, the books or the art supplies, the latest fashion or fad. They aren’t the Disney vacations (though I’ve never actually received one of these), the bath sets, shoes or slippers. In fact, they’re none of the things we focus on for the weeks leading up to Christmas, the things we cover in colorful ribbons and shiny wrapping paper.
The gifts we remember are the moments we shared, the magic of tradition, of anticipation, of seeing our spouses, our children, our parents and our friends as they light up not by the ‘things’ we gift but by the anticipation and the realization that someone spent time thinking about us, choosing or making something for us. What lasts is not the thing itself, the carefully chosen item, but the feeling we receive, and also the feeling we give. My memories and my sorrow have little to do with the traditional gift giving of Christmas and everything to do with the love I was given and also allowed and encouraged to give.
My children are young adults, their lives complicated by the confusion of youth and the hurdles of adulthood, yet often they choose to be with us. And this gift is the greatest, the one I cherish thought don’t expect, the one I crave but try not to impose. It is simply the give of love, the greatest gift of all, and the one I wish for all my family and friends at this very special time of year.