Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Spirit

                      by Rory McCain, from the Portrait of Crime Mysteries.

"A penny for your thoughts," said Zeke, housemate, business partner and ghost extraordinaire. He joined me at the kitchen table where I was trying to come up with some original,Christmas gift ideas for my family. There were only a handful of shopping days left, and the paper in front of me was as blank as my mind. My father had every electronic gadget yet invented. With Christmases, birthdays and Fathers' Days, technology was no longer keeping pace with my gift-giving needs. Clothing held no more interest for him than a bag of groceries. Correction - he'd seemed pretty happy one year with a shipment of frozen steaks. But that was no longer an option, according to his cardiologist and my mother who'd assumed the role of dietary enforcer.
            Speaking of my mother, she wasn't much easier in the gift-giving department. Jewelry had long been my go-to present for her, at least until she took me aside that Thanksgiving and told me she didn't have enough wrists, necks or earlobes to wear all the beautiful things I'd already given her. And she didn't want a tiara, not even a simple, tasteful one. Her safe deposit box at the bank was getting too hard to close and she didn't want to pay for a larger one. I'd given up on buying her clothing too. Although she loved clothes as much as any woman, what she enjoyed most was the hunt.
            I looked up at Zeke with a sigh. "My thoughts aren't even worth a penny," I replied, explaining my predicament.
            Zeke leaned his chair onto its back legs and hefted his imaginary cowboy boots onto the table. "I've never known you to be at a loss for ideas. Even if some of them are ill-advised."
            "Fair warning," I grumbled. "This isn't a good time to be needling me."
            "Appreciate the heads up, darlin'. So, you've run out of things to buy your parents for Christmas, huh?"
            "I know - not the weightiest of problems. But I hate it when someone opens a gift and you can tell they're making an effort to be excited about it."
            "Judgin' by the ads on TV, everyone is runnin' around lookin' for the perfect gifts to give. So you're not alone."
            I fixed him with my sternest look of exasperation. "Fascinating, but I don't see how that helps."
            "Okay, then let me tell you a little story," he said.
            I tried not to groan out loud. Although Zeke's stories were often entertaining, I didn't have the patience for one at that moment.  I opened my mouth to say as much, but he looked so earnest and determined to help that I swallowed my words and tried to look interested.
            "Back when I was a kid, life was hard," he began. There were years when we barely scraped by. My Christmas present one time was a figurine my father carved from scrap wood by candlelight after I went to bed. Another year my mother wrote me a story about my grandparents who'd all died before I was born. I treasured those things even after I was a grown man."
            "Is there a moral to this story?" I asked.
            Zeke shook his head. "All I'm gettin' at is that presents from a store are the easy way out, your current dilemma notwithstandin'.  Now comin' up with somethin' original that requires actual work on your part, just might be the best gift you could give your folks."
            I thanked him even though his story hadn't sparked any epiphanies for me. Satisfied that he'd helped, Zeke went back to doing whatever it was that occupied his time when he wasn't visiting with me. When I crawled into bed that night the paper for my list was still blank, but while I slept an idea that had taken seed, germinated. I awoke the next morning knowing exactly what I would give my mom and dad. As an only child Christmas had always revolved around me, and now I wanted to give those magical feelings of love and joy back to them in the only way I could. Over the next few days, I wrote down all my memories of Christmases past, which turned out to be an amazing experience for me as well. Then I found an online company who put it all together in a book with a collage of our old Christmas photos on the cover.
             When I returned home Christmas night, Zeke was waiting for me. "Well - did they like the book?" he asked. 
             "There wasn't a dry eye in the house, I replied. "Thank you."
            "I aim to please," he said, his mouth hitching up in a smile.
            "Now I just wish I could think of a gift for you."  If thinking up gifts for people was hard, it was next to impossible for ghosts.
            "Don't you worry, darlin'," he said with a wink. "You never know what tomorrow will bring."
             
           What was the most thoughtful gift you ever gave or received? 
            As part of Killer Characters' "Season's Readings," I'll be picking a winner to receive Sketcher in the Rye or any book in the series you choose! Please leave your email address with your comment.

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63 comments:

  1. The most thoughtful gift I ever received was a hand-made Cabbage Patch doll, made for me by my grandmother, many years ago.

    lauraalbert@hotmail.com

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  2. I have given occasion, poems written by me of course. Usually birthday or a wedding present. sweetcandi32010@yahoo.com

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  3. I work at a mental health facility and every year employees are asked to donate suitable gifts for the patients. A list of appropriate gifts is provided. Every patient, at the facility, on Christmas Eve receives a gift. I think the things I provide for the patients' gift box are the most thoughtful gifts I give, knowing that they bring joy to some one who may not receive any type of gift due to their mental illness status. dbahn@iw.net

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  4. the most thoughtful gift i've ever received (& can never be topped....EVER!!) is a kidney.......my friend/co-worker's son donated a kidney to me nearly 4 years ago...........

    thank you for the giveaway!!

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    1. Cyn, that would be hard to top! Best wishes for your continued health!

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  5. One of the most thoughtful gifts I ever received was not at Christmas time. It was during one of my husband's deployments. A parent of one of my students (and a volunteer in the library) gave me a spa gift card so that I could treat myself AND a friend. She said that with my husband deployed, working full time, volunteering and raising two boys I really needed a day at the spa and it would be more fun if I could take a friend. I was so touched by her gift that later that year I did the same for a fellow teacher who was expecting her first child and was just so exhausted at the end of the teaching day. My friend's thoughtfulness has inspired me to look for someone who needs that little pick me up. I can't always afford to treat them to a spa day, but really - sometimes the though really does count.

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  6. One year a woman I used to work for gave me a corn bag. I'd never heard of it so I just looked at her. She put it in the microwave and boy did it get warm. It's great when I come in from being out in the cold. I just heat it up and put it on my lap and I warm right up. I use it every winter and have bought them as gifts for other people.

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  7. The most special gift I have ever received was a lap comforter. I will never ever forget that day. I contracted West Nile in 2006 and was paralyzed from the chest down in hours. I was told I would never walk again. I was scared and to be honest, I can't tell you everything that I felt. After several weeks in the hospital they sent me to live in a physical rehabilitation center. Everything was scary and unknown. My first day in rehab, a lady came up to me and prayed with me and gave me the lap comforter for use in my wheelchair. She told me it was a prayer comforter. I still have it and will always cherish it.

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    1. Melanie, my daughter recently asked me to crochet a lap comforter for her. I've had a lot of yarn stashed away for a few years. You've inspired me to get cracking. I hope I an keep up the momentum and make a few more to comfort other people. Best wishes!

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  8. The most thoughtful gift that I had was a playhouse built by father. I don't know how he built it without me knowing it. It was lifesize (my size) and everyone in the neighborhood loved it.

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  9. The best gift I ever got was being told that they doctors had gotten all of my cancer. I could never again ask for anything more.

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    1. Connie, for sure that was a not-to-be-topped gift! All best wishes.

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  10. I know this sounds hokie, but the most thoughtful gift is being able to be with my family at Christmas. My brother and his wife have always included me in the gathering. suefoster109@netzero.net

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  11. After 26 years of marriage, my husband arranged with our families, our priest and church even my choir's organist, to have our church wedding. He did it all in secret and I knew nothing about it. We were re-married on New Years Eve, with our daughter as our maid of honor, our son as his best man, and all our family in attendance. It was the most beautiful thoughtful gift he could have ever possibly given me.
    In fact when he spoke with the church secretary she cried when he explained what he wanted to do, in December most of the calls she received were from people needing/wanting assistance in some form or another, and for him to come to her in the middle of all this I need/want, to ask to give she made sure that everything went off without a hitch.
    I will always remember that Christmas and the joy and love I felt for my husband that day and every day, he's a keeper.

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  12. I always asked for books. That was what I mostly got. I loved them all. grammyd01 (at) comcast (dot) net

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  13. The most thoughtful gift I ever got was a beautiful hand written Thank you note from a parent of a child with disabilities.

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  14. The most thoughtful gifts I ever received were a couple of Nancy Drew books from my Uncle Danny every Christmas for years. He even kept a list so he was sure he didn't buy a duplicate. As an always avid reader who didn't live near a library, I read all my books over and over.

    lkleback@hotmail.com

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  15. When my kids were little they always created handmade gifts in their classes and couldn't wait for me to open them on Christmas.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

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  16. That's a really hard question. I'll be thinking about it all day.
    libbydodd@comcast.net

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  17. Sounds really interesting, thanks for info!

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  18. To be with my family. That's all. :)

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  19. My children have only rarely bought me any gifts. I'm usually the one paying out. This year though my son got me his office's official team baseball cap. You have to understand, he works for a the city's version of Homeland Security (Office of Emergency Management) and the last cap I got I had to steal from his house. LOL

    Getting one with the seal of the agency, plus my mini shield with my son in law's badge number pretty much makes me ticket proof. LOL (I tend to have a lead foot)

    My partner and I love Rory's adventures and own two of the books. I'd love to add another one to our library.

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    1. Oooops I forgot to put my e-mail address in.

      NoraAdrienne@gmail.com

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  20. The most thoughtful gift was a Brighton purse from my husband last Christmas.

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

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  21. Each year I crochet a new blanket for each of my grandchildren. They have kept them over the years and look forward to receiving a new one each Christmas.
    grandmabkr at yahoo dot com

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  22. When I was a kid the most thoughtful gift I received was new books at Christmas. As an adult I know the most thoughtful gift are the random acts of kindness we give to each other.

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  23. I enjoy making Christmas presents for my loved ones. It could be something crochet, knitted or sewn depending on the gift. Everyone seems to like them so I just keep on making them.

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  24. I loved it when hubby game me a Magnium PI dvd set. He knew how much I loved that show!

    a_moonlit_rose@yahoo.com

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  25. The most thoughtful gift I ever received was a book of coupons from my daughter, they included foot rubs, back rubs, dish washing etc. It lasted all year and was wonderful.

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  26. Thanks for this article and also thanks for the comments, which had me thinking back in time, over many years. I've been given so many thoughtful gifts that it's hard to choose just one, from my mother to my children and grandchildren and my husband. At the end of my recollections I dwelled on one gift that didn't cost a penny or make work. I had an argument with someone that left me shaken and depressed. When I woke up the next morning there was a short letter waiting for me on the kitchen table with an apology, taking the blame entirely and ending in "I love you." I kept the letter. I almost threw it out a couple of days ago, but didn't. I value the reminder at the end - of the love.

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  27. My husband is very thoughtful and comes up with great gifts every year. But, it's those painted macaroni necklaces, decorated cigar boxes, and other gifts the kids made over th years that I treasure the most.

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  28. In trying to think back I feel that just being able to be with family at Christmas is the best I have received.

    nlb1050@yahoo.com

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  29. I think the best gift I ever gave someone was the beer brewing kit I gave to my then boyfriend, now husband, on our second Christmas together. It wasn't a Mr Beer kit, it was an actual setup I found at the local beer brew/wine making/chimney sweep business. J was SO happy!! He lit up and couldn't wait to start brewing with the ingredients I also added to the gift.
    VWinship@aol.com

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  30. When I was about 10, my mother made me a whole wardrobe for my baby doll and my dad built me a huge dresser/wardrobe to hold them...complete with hangers! It was such a gift of love and time from 2 extremely busy people. Since then I have always loved to receive and give handmade gifts.

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  31. There are so many that it is hard to pick just one or two. I would have to say the best gift I've given was way back in Junior High. A group of us went caroling at nursing homes in our area. The best gift I've been given was another year clear of thyroid cancer. sirius0772@gmail.com

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  32. I hope that I win. I love this series and all of your fellow authors as well. Merry Christmas!

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    1. I am very embarassed as I didn't read the entire blog but I love all the hand made things that my two daughters gave me. My mother had a portrait done of my jack russell that I loved and was very surprised by!! mwutsey@gmail.com

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  33. We enjoy giving homemade jams and jellies each year to various family and friends. I always cherish gifts that are homemade. email: rayptc@gmail.com

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  34. I'm going to cheat a bit. as this gift was for my birthday, not Christmas, but the most thoughtful gift I ever received was from my parents-a wine fridge! As for thoughtful Christmas giving-paintings of my furkids given to my parents-their grandkids!

    cozyupwithkathy@gmail.com

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  35. Hi,
    I loved the story about the Christmas gift and remembered the most thoughtful one I'd ever received. In 2005 my youngest daughter passed away and for Christmas, one of my grandaughters gave me a painting she'd done of my daughter and her little girl. She's not an artist, but her teacher had helped her by throwing an image onto a canvas, which she traced and painted. I will always treasure that painting.

    Joan K. Maze

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  36. i love when my nieces make me something. Tammy Hudson
    HUBTIVOLI1@YAHOO.COM

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  37. Antique jewelry from my husband.lomazowr@gmail.com

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  38. When my daughter sacrificed money she had saved for herself to buy our whole family a big Christmas gift that we could all enjoy together and we did and still do today! It was something that we all really wanted, but never thought we would get. We paid her back later of course, but she was right when she came through the door smiling and laughing and said. "I brought home Christmas!" She was so thrilled with her gift of giving and the wonderful feeling she received from it! That was a very special, thoughtful and selfless gift that I will never forget and will cherish always!!

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  40. The forgiveness of a loan that had been extended by a family member. I'd been dutifully repaying per the agreement, but it was a bit of a struggle. I admit to weeping with relief that day.

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  41. I was told the best gift I've ever given anyone was taking my 6 year old daughter on a 13 hour car trip to see her great grandmother, that's 90, for her Birthday <3 worth all the time driving, gasoline and patience with road rage :)
    sydnmacsmom@hotmail.com

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  42. The best gift I was given was having my husband home in time for our annual conventions, this year.

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  43. The best gift I ever received was from a friend during a very hard year after having to start over. I didn't have anything, including a tree, and my friend knew how much that meant to me. While I was out at work, he snuck into my apartment and put up a tree he had purchased and decorated the whole thing. He even brought over Christmas carols on CD and left them playing on a loop so I would hear them when I got in. It was so thoughtful and I have never forgotten it.

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  44. The best gift I ever received was from a fellow office worker who gave me a beautiful selection of her homemade cookies one year---I'm not much of a baker and the cookies were such a wonderful surprise for my husband.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  45. Though not as a Christmas gift, I wrote a poem (from the child's pov) for the parents of one of my daycare babies, after the 17 month old passed away quickly from Meningitis. Written to try to bring some comfort to them, but also helped me through it. That gift was returned when they not only printed the poem on the funeral program, but had it engraved on her headstone. Makes me feel I will always be a part of her! :)

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  46. My 6 kids had not been home all together for a few years and one year they all surprised me by arranging to be all together with their families at a resort. My husband took me to the resort and I was so happy I was crying! That was a very special and thoughtful gift!

    ElaineE246(at)msn(dot)com

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  47. One that really touched me was when I had been in a car accident where my car was demolished and I was in some pain, my sister-in-law came to visit and brought a gift from my nephew who was around 5 at the time. She had told him that I'd been in an accident and my car was ruined, he went running downstairs and came back up with a matchbox car and told her that I could have his. I think that I still have it packed away somewhere. momzillasteel at gmail dot com

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  48. The year I had a closed head injury and couldn't drive, my sister picked me up and took me to her house to celebrate with them and then took me back home.

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  49. I used to give my mother bath items for Christmas (from The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works, etc.)

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  50. The year that my husband gave me my Brett Favre jersey was the best gift with a meaning behind it that he ever gave e.

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  51. The best gift was my engagement ring. My husband gave it to me on Christmas Eve 1981. I have rarely taken it off since.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    eswright18 at gmail dot com

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  52. Last year, my Beloved and our daughter gave me a bound album of our wedding photos, complete with an Irish prayer at the end. I'll cherish that for as long as I walk this earth...and maybe longer.

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  53. The most memorable gift I ever got when I was a little girl about 10. My dad's mother, my grandmother who lived in a little house with a wood stove. She was very poor. Well this one Christmas she gave each of us a wash cloth with apiece of fudge wrapped in foil in the center of the wash cloth that was tied with Christmas ribbon. How cool was that each of us (6 children) had our own cloth. Different colors. The ones if us kids that got the same color had a piece of yarn tied at the corner. Georgia .queenvictoria50@aol.com

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  54. My son and DIL bought me a Kindle Fire a few years ago. I love it. I rarely get gifts because I need so little and want even less. I never ask for anything so it's always hard to buy me anything. It is full of books and I do love my books. So, it was perfect for me.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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  55. I want to thank all of you for sharing your wonderful stories with me!!

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  56. My best gift arrived Christmas eve ... my daughter Allison.

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  57. Best gift wasn't at Christmas. It was for my 50th birthday. A dear friend gave me 50 Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. She was the first woman to be honored by having her likeness on a circulating United States coin! Now she includes a Sacagewea gold coin in my birthday gift. My goal is that we both live long enough for to collect 50! :) tennisace50(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  58. My beautiful and healthy family ;)

    lorih824 at yahoo dot com

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