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‘Tis the season of giving…and I love it.

I love to give. I love to think of what someone would like to have. I love to wrap presents beautifully and have spent oodles over the years on colorful paper, cloth bows, and fancy gift cards. Aesthetics matter to me and I get an oomph of pleasure just looking at beautiful packages under an evergreen Christmas tree.

In an issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, an article asked what my own personal all time favorite gift was. What popped into my mind was so unexpected that I paused and thought deeper. Then I asked Frank his favorite gift of all time, and then I asked others. I love to ask probing questions like this that make people think because oftentimes, I’m amazed at the answers.

My favorite gift of all time came from my friend and next door neighbor, Sheila Sneider. When I gave birth to Ben, as we arrived home from the hospital, Sheila delivered the most beautiful gift basket filled with a hot meal – a delicious chicken/stuffing/swiss cheese casserole, salad, home-made dinner rolls, dessert – the works. Sheila is a wonderful cook and can create and bedazzle for get-togethers like Martha Stewart. The reason this gift meant so much to me is that it was unexpected and exactly what we needed at that time – it was like a loving embrace to two tired parents coming home with anxiety and a new baby boy.

I’ve loved so many gifts I’ve received over the years and have enjoyed them in the year they’re given, but when asked my “favorite gifts of all time,” the few that come to mind surprise me. None are from my childhood, and just think what we parents buy and spend over the years on kids’ gifts. My “ all time favorites” surprise me because they’re not necessarily from the closest people in my life. A couple were material, but it wasn’t the cost that made them special; it was the unexpectedness and the thought and meaning behind the gift.

  • an heirloom gold and pink sapphire necklace sent to me from my Aunt Georgia the Christmas after I spent a weekend with her earlier that year. It was a gift from her first husband and she wanted me to have it. No one had ever given me such an expensive gift. My son, Ben, said when he saw the necklace – “…and you only just met her? And spent one weekend with her? And she gave you that??? It must have been quite a weekend!” It was. I had met her once at 15 and then flew off to meet her again in my mid-forties for a weekend of a lifetime.

  • a picture painted in Japanese writing by her second husband which means “less is more” from a phrase she read in my book, Away at a Camp in Maine, a phrase he said to her often and when she read it written by me, she knew I had to have it

  • a painting of the Observatory in Portland given to Frank and me as a wedding gift from my boss at that time, Dave Kangas. The Observatory marked the top of the street on the Eastern Promenade where my husband and I began our life together as a married couple. It still hangs proudly in my home and always will – a marker of our beginning and the long road we’ve traveled since.

  • The trip to Mexico my husband planned 100% - the best family trip we ever took. I lead and plan and arrange every day, at home and at work. To have someone else choose and lead is the greatest gift to me and I’m so appreciative of it! Everything about that vacation was perfect.

  • Forty, white, long stemmed roses delivered to me on my 40th birthday at home from my boss at that time, Brian Noyes. That was the most beautiful flower arrangement I’ve ever seen – breathtaking.

  • A few Hallmark cards given to me by son, Matt, as an adult whose words mean everything to me – they are so touching coming from him. I keep them in my top desk drawer and read them whenever I feel like a perk.

I think of the WalMart guitar my sister Elisa gave my son Matt in the 7th grade – it changed the trajectory of his life and certainly is the most meaningful gift he ever received.

My son, Ben, said his favorite all time gift was the drum kit we bought….when we were supposed to be school shopping for clothes, on a whim, and it became a huge part of who he is. It’s a gift he uses most days. It is fun and shows a talent he never knew he had…and it’s a stress reliever on days when that’s the most pressing need.

What was your favorite all time gift?

What can you get others this holiday season that might mean the world to them….due to unexpectedness and the thought, not ever the cost?

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