The best gifts bring happiness to both giver and receiver. Memorable gifts forever hold a place in the heart, and recalling the moment the gift was given recreates the pleasure.
This year, reflective Chesapeake neighbors told us about gifts that have meant the most to them through the years. We’ve shared their stories in the hope that reading them reminds you of the best gifts you’ve given or received.
Anthony is director of Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks
“My dad bought me and my two brothers our first motocross bicycles. After we opened all of the gifts inside, he made us take the trash out. The bikes were in the back yard, and when we saw them, we promptly lost our minds.”
Demulling is a director of the League of Women Voters of Calvert County
“When I was 10, our family started giving an experience as a gift instead of an item. That year marked the start of the tradition. We’ve done so ever since, but no present has come close to the one that year: tickets for all to a hot air balloon ride.”
Hill is CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maryland
“Fifteen years ago, a group of friends got together to provide two weeks of groceries for a working mother of five who was having a hard time making ends meet. The look of surprise and gratefulness on her face when she realized that all the food in the car was for her and her kids was truly a gift to us.
“We have done this every year since for families in need. Last year we provided groceries for 14 families. This year we hope to do more. Giving to others is the best gift I have ever given to myself.”
Pittman is the newly elected Anne Arundel County Executive
“When I was about 12 years old, the family procrastinated on everything to do with the holidays, including getting a Christmas tree.
“Our family would cut down a tree from the farm. Over the years, the pine trees had been replaced by tulip poplars. There was a shortage of pine trees, and very few remaining that had that Christmas tree look.
“About two days before Christmas, I went alone into the woods in search of a tree. The longer I stayed out, the more the trees were starting to look more like Christmas trees. I sawed one down and hauled it back to the house.
“I was teased by my five sisters for some time after. The tree wasn’t a very good Christmas tree; it was not full; it had few branches on which to hang ornaments. But it served as the family Christmas tree that year.
“That tree still reminds me that sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.”
Frum, of Chesapeake Beach, a busy mom of two boys, found time to create and sell homemade coasters at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue’s Christmas market.
“My mom saves everything, especially art work; she was an art teacher. She had been creating scrapbooks for me and my sisters. They started from when we were babies until we were in middle school. When we were in our 40s, she gave them to us. We were all really touched by her gift.
“We also received a written account of oral history from our family history, dating back from the 1800s.”
Goodman is sales manager at Criswell Used Cars in Edgewater
“I’ve always decorated the house for Christmas. Ours is the corner house, and I’ve put up lights, candy canes and snowmen for 25 years.
“There is a school bus stop near our house. One of the nicest gifts I’ve received was when a little girl waiting for her bus told me that my house decorated for Christmas was the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen.”
Event planner, Graves owns Next BIG Things Productions in Annapolis
“Every year we gather people to sponsor giving gifts to children. This year will be the third year in a row that my wife Clarice and I host the event. The children meet Santa and other animated guests. They eat lunch and create Christmas ornaments to take home.
“The children make build-your-own Christmas gift kits. The kits get delivered to John Hopkins Children’s Hospital the week of Christmas to children staying in the hospital over Christmas. This way, the sick and shut-in children can make a present and give it to a loved one.
“At the end of the day, the children at our event are surprised with a gift.”
Kate and Jack Harrison
Harrison is Twin Beach Players’ president; Jack is her eight-year-old son.
“Every year we make time to go to Ocean City the weekend following Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition to see The Festival of Lights and visit with Santa. When Jack was five, he decided that he did not want Mommy to follow him to chat with Santa. I snuck around back to hear his special request.
“He didn’t ask for Legos, or toys or a bicycle. He asked for a baby. Sure enough, by the end of January, he was the first person to know that his baby brother was on the way. He’s an amazing big brother, and I’m so excited for him to share his wholehearted belief in Santa with two-year-old Reid.”
Nazzal is director of Calvert County Government Department of Parks & Recreation
“I’d say the best (or most memorable) gift I’ve received was from my dad when I was a kid. My dad is always about jokes. There’d always be something silly under (or on) the tree. I couldn’t say how old I was, but probably under 10. I would get to open one present on Christmas Eve. Inevitably, I’d always end up picking the joke gift.
“One year it was a window squeegee, another year it was a plunger, and another year it was a handheld mirror that laughed when you held it up. So memorable in fact that we’ve kept the tradition going with my kids and have a good laugh every year when my dad tells my daughter the story of when Pop Pop hung a plunger on the Christmas tree.”
Five-year-old Hudson lives in Chesapeake Beach
“My fire truck Lego set because I love fire trucks. I want to be a fireman when I grow up so I can be just like my daddy.”
Sundermann is executive director of the Calvert Nature Society
“After years of Barbie dolls and tea sets, my parents finally gave in and bought me a microscope and a home chemistry set that I had thoughtfully highlighted in the Sears catalog.
“In this year of Sears’ bankruptcy, I can’t help but recall how that catalog was the stuff of dreams. Those gifts also let me know that my parents saw my love of science as valid and true.”
Sherlock owns Tara’s Gifts in Annapolis
“I was the first of my friends to receive a Barbie doll the year that they were released.
“Another fond memory is when myself and my two sisters were given matching Dale Evans cowgirl outfits complete with hats, boots and all the fringe trimmings.”
Walter is co-owner of A Vintage Deale gift and antique store
“When I was turning 30, my mother gave me a day at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door spa. It was a day of luxury: massage, pedicure, facial and steam bath. It is the best gift I’ve ever received.”
Warburton is an Annapolis writer, artist and performance poet
“One Christmas, my very hard-working daughter, Samantha, who received ridiculously few days off, even at holidays, handed me a card. It read, The Gift of Time. She had taken off days so we could be together.”