||The Best Gifts of Christmas
By Hanne L. Denney
"What do you want for Christmas, Mama?" my daughter asks. The usual mother answer comes unthinkingly from my mouth. "Honey, I don't want you to get me anything. You're my gift, always." She walks away, kind of frustrated with me.
I remember what it's like. Mom always gives you lots of presents when you're a kid. As you get older, you want to give something to her, too. But there comes a point in a child's life when the hand-made projects from school or childcare don't seem sophisticated enough. To an early-teen child, only a store-bought gift will do.
"Think about it, Mom," she yells back over her shoulder. "I want to get you something for Christmas."
So later, in one of those rare holiday-time quiet moments, I pick up my journal and re-phrase her question in writing. What do I want for Christmas? My pen stands still.
Of course, I need lots of things, the things there is never enough money for: car repairs, bathroom remodeling, paying off a bill. My daughter does not have enough in her wallet for these things. Is there something she could buy me, like, clothing? I'd like new clothes, but I really have what I need. Perfume? I love perfume, but I have enough to last more than my lifetime already. Books? I use the library all the time. Candles? Sure, I'll tell her a new scented candle would be nice. Oh, she was with me last week when I bought that great cookie-scented candle. Never mind.
Slowly, slowly, it comes to me. And I write, Here is my list, but I don't think my family will understand it. I wish for a dear friend, beautiful music, lasting good health, a precious memory, intellectual excitement, inner peace. I look at what I've written and wonder, where did this come from? How can my child, my family, give these things to me?
This, I realize, is a list of gifts I must give to myself. I have had many friends, and if I would keep in touch with them, they would remain dear friends. I have many CDs of the world's beautiful music, but I must grant myself time to listen. I could have lasting good health, if I would make a stronger effort to stay fit. A precious memory is found easily, just by paying attention and vowing to remember those times that are special. Intellectual excitement can be found by challenging myself: reading more, or more difficult things, talking with my dear friend about interesting ideas, trying new things. Inner peace is difficult. Don't we all spend our lives trying to find it? Perhaps if I can meet the promises of the wish list I've created for myself, I can find peace deep inside my soul.
So. The Christmas Wish List jotted in my journal became my Year 2000 Resolution List.
I deserve these presents to myself.
I don't think I ever gave my daughter an answer to her question. On Christmas Day, my husband and I were amazed by the ceramic bells she created in school and gave to us. The bells are beautiful and creative and shaped by her hands. I am grateful for them. I am grateful, also, for the ideas my daughter gave me through her simple question. She made me think about treating myself as someone worthy of gifts. I am happy to accept the real gifts of my life, including my dear friend and precious memory, my daughter Katie.
Hanne Denney, writer and childcare provider, reflects from Churchton. Her son Tom, a freshman at Wake Forest, is a former intern. Her first stories for Bay Weekly, both reflections, appeared last week and this.