I hadn’t intended on making “love gifts” for my children this year; I think someone else had a hand in that. The love gift was always a special “tradition” solely shared between my mother and grandfather, before he passed away….
The tradition of the love gift began between my father and myself one Christmas many years ago, when my children were quite young. Mom and Dad came to our house on Christmas Day, toting the usual armful of wrapped gifts for our family. After everything had been opened, Dad sheepishly brought in a large bulky item wrapped in the Sunday funny papers. I asked “what is that”, and he said simply, “it’s a love gift”. In his mind, a love gift was something not worthy of traditional Christmas paper. Unwrapping, I discovered a simple, but familiar wooden shelf. Dad had made the shelf for my mother, where it had hung in the living room for years and I had always admired it. Due to redecorating, however, Mom was ready to discard the shelf, so he was giving it to me. (It has been repainted and shortened, but still hangs in my kitchen to this day.) And so it began. Dad and I would trade gifts back and forth, usually homemade or re-gifted items, but sometimes items that were quite elaborate. Once he bought me a very expensive Bradford Exchange model of the 1965 Mustang Convertible that he “provided for me to drive” while I was in high school (understand, it was his car, I was just allowed to drive it). That one he had to sneak in and we could never speak of it to Mom. One year I made personalized stationary for Dad with a picture sketch of an antique auto like the one he had been restoring. Another year I made his very favorite, very labor intensive chocolate peanut butter candies, just for him, to share with no one. You get the picture. Gifts of love, from the heart. You see, in our little family of three, traditions were hard to come by, but love was not. And love is the best gift of all.
Gifts of love….
My 19-year old daughter, Alaina, has been out of the house for over 1 1/2 years attending college. Awhile back, I found an adorable ‘Family’ photo album: slots for two pictures on each page with room to write/label next to them. I had planned on giving Alaina the album the next time I saw her; months can sometimes go by without seeing each other, and I thought it would be a great place for her to keep some photographic memories of us back home. Remembering my daughter’s inherent procrastination abilities, however, I pictured the album sitting empty on a shelf for years in her apartment until being throw out during a move. I decided to give it a little help: I took pictures from the time Alaina was born, up until the time she moved out of the house, and created a little chronological story along the way. It has an “I’ll Love You Forever” sort of feel to it and I end up crying every time I read it. My intentions aren’t to throw Alaina into fits of uncontrollable sobbing; that wouldn’t be a very loving gift. But I am hoping to chip away at that little, frozen, teenage, freezer-chest of a heart that she has grown along with her newly-gained independence. And with that, unsuspectingly, love gift #1 was born….
The love gift for my 16-year old bonus son, Brennen, also came to be several months ago. We don’t get to see Brennen as often as we’d like, but when we do, I feel like I dote on every word that he speaks. I am a sponge in his presence, attempting to pick up even a fraction of his life. Last time we saw him, Brennen let it slip that his new (to us) hobby was creating music. What a better love gift for a up and coming music composer, than a stack of blank sheet music? With that, love gift #2 was born…
My 5-year old daughter, Mackenzie, has been on a ‘fruit smell’ kick lately, asking everyone what their favorite ‘fruit smell’ of shampoo, soap, or lotion is. “What’s your favorite smell of shampoo, Mom?” “Well, Kenz, I really like rosemary-mint.” “Nooo, Mom. What is your favorite fruit smell of shampoo?” It really is quite the obsession. When asked the same question, Mackenzie has always responded with “blue-raspberry” as her favorite. Blue-raspberry soap. Blue-raspberry shampoo. Blue-raspberry lotion. So, I made my little girl ‘Mackenzie’s Blue-Raspberry Bubbles’ 3-in-1 and ‘Mackenzie’s Blue-Raspberry Beautiful Lotion’, complete with BeeHooved Farms labels and everything. She is going to love it! Gift from the heart #3…
And then there was the boy. I sat in my room last night feeling quite rotten that in the midst of creating such heartfelt gifts for my girls and bonus son, I had not thought of my Jameson. Don’t get me wrong – Christmas morning will present some very thoughtful gifts: a glorious leather-bound journal to keep all of his musings in, some books that I enjoyed reading as a kid that I can’t wait to share and converse with him about. Still…. nothing as creative and/or handmade like the other gifts. As I was getting ready for bed and tucking a magazine in my nightstand drawer, however, I found it. Four of them, to be exact: individually-wrapped, Spongebob Squarepants Gummy Krabby Patties!! It was as if a little light was shining out of the bottom of my drawer while trumpets played and angels sang. I found my 10-year old’s love gift!
I went through a period of time where I obsessed about SpongeBob Squarepants Gummy Krabby Patties. Krabby Patties were bought in bulk and hidden in kitchen cabinets, side tables, glove compartments, desk drawers, cookie jars, everywhere. The delectable little Krabby Patty gummies, each layer with their own flavor and texture: the buns are kind of spongy, the lettuce crisp (for a gummy), the burger just the right thickness. Freaking amazing. James shared my love of all things Krabby Patty. If we were at the store, he would remind me that our Krabby Patty stash was getting low and needed to be replenished. Bad day? How about a Krabby Patty, Mom? Good day? How about a Krabby Patty, Mom?
As with all of my obsessions, the Krabby Patty craze slowly faded into a distant memory. Jameson was heartbroken. Every now and then, I would surprise my little guy with the occasional Krabby Patty. When the stash ran out, however, I never bought more. I am not going to lie… the four Krabby Patties that I found in the bottom of my nightstand drawer are probably pushing 4 years old. James won’t mind the age – it will be the thought, and memories involved, that will put a smile on his face Christmas morning. And with that, my fourth love gift was born.
This Christmas season, I found myself getting more excited about the love gifts than any other present I bought for my kids. I miss my Grandpa more than anything in the world, for so many different reasons. He has been gone a long time, however, I feel like maybe he had something to do with the love gifts coming to fruition this year. Perhaps 2016 is the start of a new “tradition”: love gifts. Gifts of love, something that my family can carry on, in Grandpa Max’s name.
I want to thank my mom, Carol Gowdy, for the explanation of the love gift and the beautiful picture. I love you Mama… my love gift to you – remembering your Dad, my Grandpa Max, and hopefully depicting the enormous impact he still has on his grandkids, to this day. Love really is the best gift of all.