by Kathleen Carpenter, Editor
The Best Gift
A recent Chatboard Poll conducted by Teachers.Net revealed that, in spite of the events of 9/11, the spirit of the holidays prevailed. And it is apparent from the responses that the best gifts and cherished memories have no price tags attached.
We asked: What was the best gift you gave this year?
What is your favorite memory of Holiday 2001?
In our family the adults decided not to exchange gifts this year. Instead, each family brought a story to our Christmas celebration and we had a story-telling time. The stories were of all sorts. I especially enjoyed getting my 9 year-old niece to help me with a reader's theater version of "The Two Gifts" from Bennett's book The Moral Compass. I believe it was a bonding time--17 people enjoyed about 2 hours of listening to one another with the TV off!
I drove to the Troll factory outlet in Memphis (I'm in Little Rock) and bought a variety of more than 50 books I knew my 4th graders would enjoy. At the outlet store, most everything is 50 cents! During our Christmas party, we played games and the winner would go choose a book. They were so excited, they were taking their books to read at lunch. I also gave them homemade cookies and mechanical pencils.
A young girl in my class is from Poland and gave me some beautiful pictures of herself as a baby and young girl living in Poland. I didn't feel that I could keep the pictures, but she was most upset when I tried to give them back. So, I took them to PakMail and had them photocopied and made into the cover of two calendars. When I got back to school I gave her one of the calendars and showed her the one that I was going to use on my desk at home so I would remember her when I saw it everyday. I then gave the original pictures back and asked her to put them in the album so that her whole family would have the same special memories. She took them without hesitation and was sooo excited about the calendar. It made me feel so good inside to see her joy at a little something.
The best gift I received this year was having my son and daughter both home for Thanksgiving. We couldn't do Christmas but this was the first time in 5 years they were both home together. Sure did mean a lot to this divorced, single mom. The daughter-in-law arranged a picture appointment at Penney's and had the grandchildren's picture taken for part of my Christmas.
I helped with the Christmas outreach at school this year. My church alone provided Christmas for 6 families. The school collects food. Altogether there were 30 families helped. This has been my Christmas since losing a son 10 years ago at Thanksgiving time.
The gift I am giving is family recipe books to the nieces in the family. I emailed my sisters in Sept and asked for them to send me 6 family recipes and ask no questions. Since we are getting together on Saturday I am still working on them but they are coming together.
The best gift I gave and got this year was tickets to the "Lion King" stage show.
My husband bought them last summer, and as the time got closer, he wanted to put something under the tree. I told him, this was the best gift. The memory will last forever, it is already put away, and it was wonderful to spend the day with him.
I really appreciate the time he and I have together now that we are developing an "empty nest". It's night quite empty and the "birds" keep coming back, but it is so nice to have time together and quiet in the house!
This year we had an addition to our family for Christmas. Our son's girlfriend of 10 months or so came to spend Christmas with us. She arrived on Christmas Eve and left on Boxing Day. She is Jewish, so we weren't encroaching on her family's time together. We are grateful they 'let her go' so to speak. (Our son spent Pesach with them earlier in the year). We are a big family, with both sides big as well, while she is from a small family, with both sides small.
Seeing our Christmas traditions through the eyes of someone coming in from the outside was both the best present given, and received. A few days earlier, she raced inside to look at our Christmas tree. She'd seen lots of others around of course, but none were 'her' tree. She was amazed that there was a present under the tree for her.
When they arrived off the train on Christmas Eve we took her to look at house lights, and then went to Midnight Mass. When we got home she saw 7 Santa sacks lined up in the lounge room. "Oooh, there's one for ME!!" (Our youngest is 10, so all the kids get involved). Christmas day itself was one large family gathering after another. Breakfast with us (prawns, smoked salmon, mango and fresh orange juice around the Christmas tree); lunch with 20 of my husband's family; and dinner with 35 of my side. (The most she has ever had for a present opening session is 4 - this was, to say the least, a different experience :-)
She joined in the antics with great humour, and handled the various eccentricities with a sparkle in her eye. One overriding memory is of us standing around the piano all singing carols at the top of our voices in 3 and 4 part harmony with Michelle quietly asking for another book so she could sing the right words.
Against the backdrop of smoke from bushfires [in Australia], and further memories of September 11th, this was a Christmas that had something special.
My sister is remarrying her 1st husband. We all kept liking him and 30 years later they have found each other again. He and his son Joey came to Christmas, the son is adorable, and they brought a lot of laughter to the house. We have a new baby in the family that unfortunately lives with her navy parents in CA so we can't see her often, but she was there in thought. Joey, the teenager, who is cute, smart, and personable went into the kitchen of my mother and whipped up a delicious dinner after only knowing us about 2 hours. Everything was great.
This Christmas was very special for me!
I gave my parents the gift of my brother and his new wife. They didn't get to stay for the holidays, however, we did get them in town for the week before Christmas. My brother got married in June and wasn't planning to come for his first Christmas. My parents were pretty down. We made it possible and surprised my parents.
I took 5 children off our school Christmas Angel Tree and hopefully contributed to their Christmas dreams. It was so much fun shopping for these little angels. Several friends and family members requested I take their gift money and put it toward the Christmas Angel Tree. We had so much fun. I think we manage to spend close to $50 on each child.
Every Christmas of the past has been wonderful, but this one felt different. I think due to the events of 9-11, it really opened my eyes to the love and family I have. No amount of gifts I could have "received" could have compared to being with the ones I love this year. They are special people!
We, too, have a hopefully soon-to-be-adopted member of the family -- close friends' foster daughter. I made a "Baby's First Christmas" photo collage and a glass ball ornament of her in her Santa hat for my friends for Christmas.
My niece just completed her first semester of college, majoring in elementary education. She did poorly in a math class and was feeling a little down, so I wanted to give her something special. Before the holiday break, I had my students collectively decide on some of their favorite books from the classroom library. We put bookplates in them that said "From Mrs. Preston and her class to Miss Lorenzo and her future students" and gave them to her as a gift to start her own book collection. She was really tickled by it. Incidentally, the students chose three Dr. Seuss books.
My best memory this year is something we've done for the past three years now -- we volunteer at something called "Christmas Day Happening" in the town where I grew up. It's a dinner for anyone who has no one to spend Christmas with, no resources to provide a meal, or who just wants to fellowship with others. My husband and brother-in-law delivered meals to homebound people while my sister and niece and I played Christmas music and ran the sound for the program using my husband's DJ equipment. It was a really nice time!
It was lovely having family here. Best present? Our 23 year-old son loves to ride bicycles in his free time. I rummaged through old photos and bought a picture frame matted with 10 different sized openings. I started with a picture of him in Christmas jammies on his first tricycle. Pictures included him on several Big Wheels and various bikes. He loved it!
Our family tried really hard to make this a special Christmas due to the loss of my Father in law, the events of 9-11, and our special gift.......our first Grandchild.
We had a Christmas morning brunch and invited everyone in our family that could come........aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors!
A special gift to our Grandson was a table and chairs built by his Granddad. The antique metal chairs were picked up from the side of the road (someone had tossed them in their trash!) and painted in primary colors and the table legs were made from salvaged spindles from a neighbor's trash pile. Granddaddy attached a top and painted the top a bright yellow. My dear late Mom is smiling I am sure as she always did this kind of thing!
Our favorite Christmas decoration was a white wreath with red balls and an American Flag attached to the center....to remind us of our service men and women who are defending our country and the rest of the World as we are at home to celebrate the Holiday Season with our loved ones.
The best gift I received was a portrait of my daughter and her new family. The best gift we gave was a copy of my parents' wedding portrait from 1950.
Well........the best gift was my son spending the night with me after living away from home for 2 years! Seeing him in his own bed at home was wonderful!
The best present I gave this year was a set of 3 bears dressed as Mary, Joseph and the Baby to my son (age 30). His wife is not Christian but he felt very uncomfortable without a nativity in his home. She loves teddy bears and they did not seem as "religious" as a traditional nativity would have been. It is somewhat difficult to blend religious customs in a "mixed" marriage but the bears seemed to do the trick for both of them.
My best memory was celebrating their first Christmas in their new home. My son and his wife moved in on Dec 21 and my husband, daughter and I went down for the weekend to unpack boxes, paint walls and help organize their new home. Our daughter-in-law was truly grateful and it did a lot to help our relationship, which had a rocky past, improve. It also changed my feelings toward her in a very positive manner. I hope that the blessings we both felt this season will continue throughout the year.
I thought this would be the first Christmas I wouldn't have all my kids home because in July my daughter moved out to Portland, OR to start a new job. My older son lives in Philadelphia, he arranged for my daughter to fly to Philly, and when he arrived home he brought along his sister. What a nice gift!
When I was a kid my brother had a Smokey the Bear doll that never made it to his adulthood. It was his favorite toy and I knew it bothered him that he didn't have it anymore. I searched eBay for a vintage Smokey from the 60s and found one that looked to be exactly as I remembered my brother's. I won the auction and gave it to him for Christmas and he was thrilled! I get a lump in my throat as I think of his expression when he opened the box. It was by the far the best present I have ever given!
We had a very difficult Christmas this year. Both my mother and my husband's mother are in the hospital. My Husband has the great cold of the season, my son had to work and my daughter and I had to leave them behind as we tried to help Grandpa and Auntie celebrate Christmas. The best thing I did was order a complete dinner from Marie Calendars to take to my Dad. It was delicious and so easy. Special this Christmas? That we are all still here, if not together. My sister has surgery tomorrow for skin cancer and since she has no family of her own I will be traveling today to be with her. Best gift I received? My 23 year old daughter who treated her mother as if she were a fragile gift. Love that kid!
This year I made up calendars of grandchildren's photos for my in-laws, my mom and my grandma. It meant taking a LOT of pictures over the year, which required the patience of my 11-year-old daughter, who is starting to dislike having her picture taken. Then, I had to collect photos from every side of the family. I had to collect photos of my nieces and nephews from my husband's side of the family, and for my grandma's calendar (composed of photos of great-grandchildren) I had to collect photos of my cousins' children. I had taken enough of my own children and my niece and nephew for Mom's calendar. I used fancy scissors to set the photos on the paper for each 12-month calendar, and then brought it to the store for the finishing touches. The grandparents love it! My in-laws will bring it to Arizona when they go this year, to show it off to the other "snowbirds" down there.
My husband is a very special man. He makes me feel like a queen everyday. He does so much to help around the house, with the kid, etc. There is no way to describe him except to admit he is a rare treasure. BUT he does have this annoying habit of always being able to guess his Christmas gifts before he opens them. This year, I learned how to make/and made a scrapbooking scrapbook of his class and their adventures in second grade so far. It was fun and turned out nice. The best part was he didn't have a clue and the smile of pleasure on his face was precious.
The best gift I gave was one I didn't actually give, but helped to find. I found a used computer for my sister to give to my niece, with the help of a teachers.net friend. My niece called me Christmas Eve (since she's now a teen, her family opens gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning), to thank me. My sister got on the phone to tell me that my niece was so happy with the computer, she cried. That phone call was one of my best memories this year. My other best memory this year was this: I got my husband 2 movies for Christmas, one of which was "Rules of Engagement". As I sat in my computer room on Christmas night, chatting with my teachers.net friends, I could hear my hubby in the living room, yelling at the bad guys in the movie. It felt good knowing I had obviously picked a good movie.
What a fun post! I really enjoyed reading the wonderful Christmas memories of fellow teachers. This is a special memory I have tucked away from Christmas, 2001: My seven-year-old nephew (I am his aunt AND his teacher) was at my home for our annual Christmas eve gathering. He opened up a present that was an "easy reader" book and he exclaimed, "Oh-h-h, I am so lucky!" I just loved it!