Perspective is everything, and nothing changes perspective like a life experience.
When I was young we had big Christmases. I was an inconsiderate punk, and I remember bragging to a neighbor about the number of gifts under our tree.
I remember at the same time that some of the gifts we got weren't exactly our favorites. Every kid knows the dreaded clothing gift for Christmas. And for some reason there were few gifts you wanted less than a sweater. How life has changed.
It has been many Christmases since I have actually anticipated getting gifts (I now just prefer seeing everyone for dinner). In the last three years I put extra effort into special gifts for my mother. Holidays did goofy things to her. She got excited, happy, depressed, angry and even a little selfish (though I hate to say it). If we spent three days with mom without leaving and then went to spend three hours with my father, we would hear how we were barely home.
Don't get me wrong, I understood. Mom was lonely. For so many years our family had huge holidays where people would all gather together, and even when we were at my dad's for visitation, she could go somewhere and not be alone. The last few years, that got harder for her and she didn't really have anywhere to go. To make things worse, the only family she had still alive was us. I'm sure those three hours were hard, and instead of being annoyed, I always felt empathy for that fact.
I did my best to make up for it with thoughtful gifts. None of us had much money, so rather than wowing people with valuable things, I do my best to wow them by letting them know I listened. One year I got all the fixings for a tune-up and oil change, and I crawled under mom's truck before the wrapping paper was even in the garbage.
While in China, I ordered a new part for the grill she got from my great grandfather's house. It was just a little Weber, but it meant a lot to her and was falling apart. Now it is good as new.
Sometimes these types of gifts worked to lift up her spirits, and that was worth every cent.
The key was always to give a gift that showed that you cared about them. Not something that showed you had a lot of money to flash around. That was something I didn't get as a kid. Now, if I had a grandmother still alive and she knitted a sweater for me, I would cherish it. Perspective is everything, and heart-warming gifts are the mature adult's x-box.
It's not Christmas, but this is still relevant.
My brothers, sister and I gathered for the first time since my mother's death in order to sort through her belongings. There was an army of cow decorations from the kitchen, Cherubs from the bathroom, Betty Boops from her bedroom and box after box of clothing and shoes. It was bittersweet.
My dainty mother, it turns out, had clothes in her closet that fit my two nieces, both of them in elementary school. They both were able to take home some nice, classy spring and fall jackets as well as pants and hoodies. It was nice to see that these things would continue on.
Nothing compared, however, to opening two totes from the basement. In one was folded three or four quilts, in the other were another two or three unfinished quilts. These are priceless. They belonged to my mother's grandmother. Probably my mother's favorite person to ever live. She had died while I was still fairly young, but here were quilts that she had made with her own hands.
I've realized that in other places throughout the house there are a couple other quilts, meaning each of us could probably have two each if I can get them all together.
Grandma never let us leave her house without giving us something. Just before she died she gave us each a dollar in quarters because it was all she had left.
Now, each of us can have two priceless gifts that my mom set aside, that were made by our great grandmother and will provide us warmth when we need it. I think we all slept with those quilts that very night.
Happy Mother's Day to all of those important women out there.