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Earmuffs and Vacuum Cleaners
THE BEST AND WORST CHRISTMAS GIFTS I HAVE EVER RECEIVED
T he best Christmas gift I ever received was frommy father. I received it on the first Christmas after he died, 21 years ago. When I was growing up, our family wasn’t wealthy by any means, so we never expected to have a huge pile of presents under the tree. But my dad loved Christmas, and after my siblings and I moved out, and after my parents were a little more financially comfortable, his love for us and for the holiday really shined through his gifts. He loved to spoil us. When we came back home for the holidays, we would all exchange presents with one another. Dad would make us all wear these goofy matching sweaters while we opened presents on Christmas morning, and we would take pictures in them. He always loved it when we were all together, and he loved planning our family time around the holidays. No one could really step into his shoes after he died, so there was a sense of emptiness in the air as we opened our presents on Christmas morning 21 years ago.
gift I have ever received. Getting those earmuffs made it feel like my dad was still there with us. Most Christmases, my parents’house would have been filled with laughter. That year though, we all just cried. Even though his presence is missed every year, I’ve been blessed that some of his Christmas spirit has rubbed off onmy husband, Lanny—eventually. The first Christmas after Lanny and I got married, he got me the worst Christmas gift I have ever received. Before I go on, I should say this: I now appreciate Lanny’s effort that first Christmas, but when he first showedme my gift, it was hard to hide my disappointment. My and Lanny’s first Christmas as a married couple was just a week before our first anniversary. I had it inmind that he was going to get me some jewelry, or maybe a nice new dress— the kinds of gifts I had seenmy dad get for my mom. But Lanny, being the practical guy he is, bought me a brand-new vacuum cleaner. He knew the one I had was a piece of junk,
was a blue-collar guy andmy husband grew up on a farm, so the mall was their own personal hell. Nevertheless, my dad and Lanny, clad in work boots and clothes covered in dust andmotor oil, made their way through all the jewelers and dress stores they could find. During these excursions, my dad would point to certain items and say,“ That’s what you get your wife for Christmas.” Today, Lanny and I can laugh about that first Christmas. Since then, he’s givenme some of the most thoughtful gifts over the years. I’m always surprised in the best way, whatever it is. It could be something I said I wanted six months prior, but Lanny will remember it. He’ll even get me a gift from Freckles, just for fun. The way he really gets into the Christmas spirit reminds me somuch of my dad. Through the friendship he andmy husband shared, it feels like he’s still here with us.
“To this day, they are the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Getting those earmuffs made it feel like my dad was still there with us.”
There were a few gifts that Dad had bought for us before he died that year. For me, he bought a pair of beautiful mink earmuffs. It was such an indulgent gift, much like the kinds of presents that he had lavished on us in previous years. And considering howmild the North Carolina winters are, they weren’t exactly practical. Yet, to this day, they are the best Christmas
and for that reason, it was a thoughtful gift, but at the time I just thought,“You don’t get your wife a cleaning appliance for Christmas!” During those first few years of our marriage, my dad spent a lot of time at the shoppingmall with Lanny, coaching himon what to get me for Christmas. Dad
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