At age 8, I received a most meaningful gift. It was a big beautiful doll with blond hair and eyes that opened and closed. In an effort to get on Santa’s “good” list, I cleaned my room and did my chores. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I even did everyone else’s chores. When I opened the box Christmas morning and saw two big blue eyes staring back at me, I was elated. I felt as if I could make every dream come true if I wanted it bad enough and was willing to work for it.
At 11, I received a most meaningful gift. It was an angora sweater. A year earlier, I had received toys for Christmas, but that year I had “graduated” to clothes. Wearing that sweater made me feel so grown-up. More than that, the gift told me that others saw me as grown-up, too.
At 17, I received a most meaningful gift. It was a heart-shaped necklace from my boyfriend. I believed at that moment that love would last forever. The chain snapped less than a week later, and we broke up soon after, but I learned that some things are meant to last for only a short time and that we must enjoy them while we can.
In my twenties, I received a most meaningful gift. Our oldest son was born just before Christmas. It was a gift that both elated and humbled me. This baby—this beautiful gift from God—was solely dependent on me and I wanted so much to be the perfect mother. But as I walked the floor that Christmas day trying to comfort a colicky baby, I realized the futility of that goal. I soon learned that no child ever said that his or her mother was perfect, only that she was the best.
In my thirties, I received a most meaningful gift. The Christmas I most remember during that time was a bleak one. My husband’s company was on strike and we were down to our last fifty cents. As I filled our three children’s stockings with nuts and oranges, I dreaded the following morning when they would see how little Santa had left. Much to my surprise and delight, I never heard one of them complain. If anything they seemed to be more appreciative of the few gifts they did receive. That was the year I learned that sometimes less is more.
I received the most meaningful gift during our saddest year. Our oldest son died a few months before Christmas and I couldn’t even bring myself to put up a tree. I cried most of that day and I don’t remember what presents I received, but I do remember one important gift. For it was that year that I learned that we’re stronger than we think we are, and though we lose so very much with the death of a love one we can’t possibly count all the blessings that remain.
I don’t know what gifts are in store for me this Christmas, but I do know this: the gifts that touch our hearts are the ones that stay with us the longest.
Best-selling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty novels and novellas. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers’ Choice and Award of Excellence. She’s a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap. She is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.