Each year, I relish in the hunt for the perfect gift for loved ones. I try to listen carefully throughout the year to little clues dropped by unsuspecting friends and family and delight when they unwrap a truly wanted object on Christmas morning.
But "the perfect gift" is becoming more and more elusive. Last year, I had to stoop to asking for ideas for what might go under the tree. Even when asked, many of my family members couldn't come up with "the perfect gift." Instead, they responded with "well, I guess a shirt," "perhaps a sweater," and "rechargeable batteries."
That's when I knew that sometimes the perfect gift cannot come from a store but instead must come from the heart.
I made an announcement to all concerned family members that I would not be participating in a commerical Christmas that year, and I invited them in joining me in thinking about "perfect gifts" that might be homemade. But again the reponse was underwhelming, "I'm just not creative," "What could I make?" "Do we have to?"
With this decision upon me, I was filled with the spirit. How could I seize this opportunity to show my family how much I loved them? What coudl I do to help us all recapture the true spirit of Christmas? How could I bring back the story of Jesus' birth, the grand but simple gifts of the magi and the wonderous generosity of the real St. Nick?
I tried to so some research. There were plenty of websites that offered ideas on gifts that don't cost a cent -- like the "gift of listening," but I still wanted something that I could wrap and place under th tree. I didn't want to give gifts that looked like a second-grad art project or "coupon books" never get redeemed. I was looking for gifts that would be treasured.
The heart-made gifts for my parents were relatively easy. I took a favorite photo of me and my mom and decoupaged it onto a "Useful Box to Put Things In." I researched and tracked down the ingredients for my father's favorite pie -- rhubarb -- and attempted to bake one. I put together a list of "What My Parents Taught Me" and printed it out on beautiful paper.
My sibs proved harder. I made my sister an inspiration box. I decorated a box and filled it with 31 strips of paper with daily affirmations and declarations of my love and admiration for her. For my brother, I put together three easy to cook recipes and gathered all the needed ingredients.
Christmas morning came. Colorfully wrapped gifts burst from under the tree. There was the usual melee as people passed out their presents. My heart-made gifts were well-received.
My parents joined with me in eschewing store-bought gifts. They had worked together compiling a scrapbook for each of their three adult children. The books were filled with memorabilia from their personal histories, as well as photos and school work from our own unique personal histories. they were a surprise and provided the opportunity for each of us to relive our childhood together. They were a reminder of what is truly important in this world -- family.
I don't know what this year's Christmas will hold. I know that I have told my family how much they mean to me. I know that they know I love them. So will I turn back to looking through the malls for the Perfect Gifts for my loved ones? Perhaps this year, we'll figure out a way to take the Spirit of Christmas out into the world and give not to each other in our small family -- but as a small family find a Perfect Gift for others in our big family in the world.