My mother wore a wedding band for more than 20 years. So when she and my father divorced, she felt strange not having a ring on her finger. That year, for Christmas, my sister and I teamed up to buy her a “mother’s ring,” which was set with our mom’s birthstone as well as ours. When we gave it to her, she cried. She still wears it daily.
Several years ago, when money was particularly tight, my husband and I agreed to spend no more than $10 on holiday presents for each other. I bought a box and filled it with dozens of slips of paper, each one detailing something I love about him. (“You are firm in your convictions.” “You put up with me when I’m cranky or hungry or both.”) He still displays it in his office.
One day when I was munching on a piece of seafoam chocolate (an old-fashioned, airy confection), my mother-in-law mentioned that her late father used to give her a piece of that candy every Christmas. Months later, I remembered her comment and wrapped up a piece for her. When she opened it on Christmas, she was speechless. The gift deepened our bond.
I recorded 30 of my favorite recipes onto an audio cassette so my mother, who suffered from macular degeneration, could try them. I included everything from chicken Marsala to cakes and cookies. She used it until her death, a decade later.
Karen J. Ostby
My husband is a bit of an aviation nerd. At home, he listens to air-traffic control through the website liveatc.net, and when we fly, he rattles off facts about the plane we’re on. For his 30th birthday, I scheduled a two-hour flying lesson so that he could finally take a turn in the pilot’s seat. My husband was gleeful afterward and called friends to tell them that he had just flown a plane. His delight made it a present for me, too.
I’m a college student, which means that I’m perpetually broke. So last year, instead of buying gifts for my family, I used burlap, red yarn, ribbons, and bells to make personalized Christmas stockings. I love that we’ll use them year after year.
Since 1988 I had treated my best friend, Jeanne, to a birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant, Bennigans. When she moved to Chicago in 2001, she was upset because she thought we would have to give up the tradition. So on Jeanne’s 32nd birthday, a few months after the move, my daughter and I flew to Chicago to surprise her. When she saw us, she teared up and exclaimed, “What are you doing here?” My answer: “I’m here to take you to Bennigans.”
My dad is not easy to select gifts for. In the same breath that he says “thank you,” he’ll mention why he needs to bring the item back to the store. But on his 60th birthday, my mother, my sister, and I got it right. We made him an album filled with photos taken throughout his life. He truly loved it—and for once he didn’t want to return it!
New York, New York
My dad and his wife love rescue dogs—they have six—but they’ve always wondered about their genetic backgrounds. So I bought them a dog DNA test so they could learn which breeds make up one of their pups, who was a real mystery mix. I still remember how tickled they were when they received the results.
My gift to my great-grandson, Matthew, on his first Christmas was a toy airplane that he could ride. It had flashing lights and a hidden compartment under the seat. When that one-year-old saw it, he lit up. His mother and grandmother recently suggested that Matthew, now approaching four, pass his airplane along to his baby cousin. With indignation, he replied, “No way! That’s where I keep my rocks!” Well said, Matthew.
To celebrate the purchase of our first home together, I got my husband a present he had been requesting for five years: an outdoor grill. Every time he leaps up to use it, I can see the excitement on his face.
As an early Christmas present one year, I gave my mother a ticket to a Joffrey Ballet performance of The Nutcracker. She had confessed to me that she had always dreamed of seeing it. The beauty of the show mesmerized her, and as she watched, I saw tears well up in her eyes. My mother has been gone for more than a decade now. When I hear the melodies from The Nutcracker Suite, I remember that magical moment we shared and I’m comforted.