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Sharon Randall: What gifts will you give for Christmas?

By Sharon Randall

What gift are you hoping to get this Christmas? And what gift are you hoping to give?

My husband and I share a big blended family that includes five adult children, their “others” and eight grandchildren, ages 10 years to 20 months.

Like most families, we love to exchange gifts. For me, the hard part isn’t shopping. It’s finding out what all those people want.

The little people are easy. I don’t ask them what they want. It might be something their parents wouldn’t want them to have. Like the BB gun I asked my dad for when I was 10, but never got, because my mother swore I’d shoot my eye out.

Rather than ask the grandkids what they want for Christmas, I ask their parents, who know not only what the kids want, but what they, as parents, are willing to let them have.

The grown kids’ gifts are harder to pin down. Even if they know what they want, they never seem to want to tell me.

I’ll say, “You know we’re going to give you a Christmas gift. Do you want to get what you want, or try to exchange it later?”

Then they’ll say, “Mom, what do you want us to give you?”

And I’ll smile sweetly and say, “I don’t want or need anything. Just tell me what you want!”

This goes on for days until one of us says something like, “Fine, I want socks.” And the other says, “Fine, I want socks, too.”

Our family is big on socks.

Given a choice, I always prefer to give memories: A road trip together. A night out for the parents while Nana watches the kids. Tickets to a game or a concert they’ll never forget.

Great memories make great gifts. But they’re hard to come up with when you’re under house arrest in a quarantine lockdown for a pandemic.

My husband and I usually give each other a shared gift. This year it’s glider, to replace one we broke after years of sitting on it watching sunsets together.

By far the hardest gift for me to give is my brother’s. Not because he’s picky. Far from it. But because we live far apart and things I send him often get stolen off his porch.

Joe is blind and suffers from cerebral palsy. To walk, he needs braces and a walker.

He lives alone in low-income housing, having lost his wife, the love of his life, to cancer.

“Sister,” he said, when I called him today, “you don’t need to get me anything. I’m fine.”

“I know you’re fine,” I said. “Fine and stubborn. But I’m getting you a Christmas gift so just tell me what you want.”

“OK, how ‘bout some food? Maybe some pickled eggs like you sent last year. Mmm, mmm! You know how I like to eat.”

“Yes,” I said, grinning, “I do.”

Our mother made pickled eggs for Christmas. I wouldn’t touch them. Joe couldn’t get his fill. Now, more than the taste they leave on his lips, he loves the memories they stir in his heart.

My next call was to a very kind woman in the office at Joe’s complex. Last year, after his gifts were stolen off his porch, she said if I’d send his packages in care of the office, she’d be happy to take them to him.

I wanted to make sure she was still there and willing to help. She was, and I thanked her.

So I ordered pickled eggs and a basket full of boxes of sausage and cheese and cookies and such. Joe will have fun figuring out what’s inside each box.

If I could give one gift to us all—to you and Joe and every soul in our weary world—it would be a Christmas like all the best ones we can remember, and all the best ones that are yet to come, free of fear and despair, full of peace and hope and joy.

Christmas is born like a baby in a manger, not in the past or future, but always here and now, when we hunger for its gift and make room for it in our hearts.

May the life-giving spirit of Christmas come soon to us all.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or at www.sharonrandall.com.

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