Writings from the Nov 24, 2015 workshop on GIFTS held at Friends House.
Everyone enjoyed this exercise. Some wrote and some just thought about a gift they’d been given and told that story. Some stories were very personal so will not appear here. Emma talked about a vest she had made for her husband, how she’d put it all together and that he had enjoyed what she had made. Carol talked about how a gift of an ornament had started a collection. Three stories were submitted for the web.
The Gift of Moving On by Mary Stevenson
The year I turned four my brother was born; I sorely felt the loss of my parents’ attention. But for my fourth birthday, my parents gave me my heart’s desire, a very shiny, very red wagon. It was a small but real compensation. My demotion from only child to big sister still rankled but eased some as I could wheel my wagon anywhere in the yard, while my brother was caged in his playpen. The following year I was given even more wonderful birthday surprise, my very own tricycle, very, very red and very, very high. When I sat on top, I could only reach a pedal by slipping off the seat to reach the pedal with my big toe. Movement was slow, but I was in lofty motion compared to my brother’s toddling gait. Then, for my eighth Christmas, Santa brought me an even more thrilling and scary surprise—my very own bicycle. Mint green, a girl’s bike, sturdy and huge. Dad took me out for my first ride, stood beside me, I terrified: the hill was so steep; my balance so unsure. All morning, I coasted down the hill, Dad beside me. At last, I took my first solo trip, all by myself, Dad stationed at the top of the hill, grinning. I was launched, on my own. Even then, I dimly sensed my parents’ gifts of wheels were more than just toys. Later I realized they had given me the tools, the means, to explore the world, to find the courage and joy of moving on and into an independent self. That Christmas day, though, what I knew was that, while my brother might catch up, but I was the first and would always the first kid in the family to swoop down that hill and not fall off.
Gifts by Betty Brody
When I was in the seventh grade my family lived in a large old home between a fire station and a community center in Greensboro, NC. It was Christmas Eve and my father had just returned from his usual Christmas Eve shopping for our family. The house was full of anticipation of Christmas. My siblings all were sliding down the bannisters and the aromas of Christmas delicacies were wafting through our home.
My dad began to have second thoughts about the bicycle he ad purchased for my older brother, Bunny. Would Bunny be safe riding his new bike in our crowded and constantly changing neighborhood? No, my father finally concluded. Bunny would not be safe. What could he do about Bunny’s bike? He remembered his Christmases at the Eden Home for Children. He was taken there at 10 after his father died. The orphanage children had had few presents at Christmas. Dad decided to take Bunny’s bike to the Children’s Home. This was the first time he’d taken gifts there. They were so grateful to receive the bike. It would be shared by several children on Christmas morning.
After that my father continued to give to the Children’s Home. It seemed to me that the more he gave the more he prospered. Before he died he gave a million dollar cottage to the Children’s Home and an athletic field to Elon College. The lesson I learned from my father’s generosity was that the more we give, the more we receive.
The Lulu Doll by Susan Fitch Brown
LULU was a comic in the Funny Pages of the newspaper and was about a little chubby girl who knew herself and said her mind. I liked her and that year, I was about 4, there was a cloth doll, a LULU doll in all the stores. I don’t think I’d ever wanted anything quite so much. I told everyone I wanted a LULU doll, told my parents, my grandparents, everyone at nursery school and church that I wanted a LULU doll. Later we went to see Santa in San Francisco and I told him the same thing, very much believing at the time that I was talking to the man from the North Pole or one of his minions.
Oh, was I excited. Christmas Day with LULU would be wonderful. I’m not sure why it was such a big deal, but it was.
Chrismas came. I hadn’t slept much which was horrible, all those long boring hours in bed when I could have been doing something, anything. The house was all decorated. We’d received cookies from everyone and Mom had made springerlis, the cookies made with anise, for the first time, and the anise scent permeated everything along with the scent from greens and the tree in the living room. (The cookies were as hard as rocks and lasted for much of the year (tasted good but hard to eat)).
I ran down the stairs as soon as I was allowed. There was one box that seemed the right size, maybe a little big. Mom said I had to open it last. I tore through all my presents, the clothes my mother had made and other practical items that she wanted me to have and I didn’t care much about, found some beautiful books from Gramma and Grampa that I couldn’t read yet but they had pictures that I could copy and turn into paper dolls.
Finally I was done and it was time to open THE BOX. I was careful because I was told to be. I opened the box and there was an absolutely gorgeous Madame Alexander doll about a foot tall, a young girl with dark hair and a pretty pink taffeta dress. I was crestfallen but it wouldn’t do to let anyone know. I knew this was an expensive doll, much more valuable and longer lasting than the LULU doll. I was glad to have her and would have been thrilled if only I’d also gotten LULU.
Mom saw me hesitate and said I should call her Lulu, which I did and tried to be excited, but I wasn’t and I wondered how everyone, especially Santa, could have gotten it so wrong. I guess I said something, or Mom figured it out because for my birthday in the summer I got a complete set of tailored clothes made especially for Lulu, a whole shoebox full including a coat in brown wool with brass buttons, a blouse and jumper and a dress made of oilcloth in greens and whites. I changed the clothes a few times about once every few months, but she was too good to take to a friend’s house and she wasn’t something you could just toss around which is what I would have done with LULU.
I still have the doll and all her wonderful clothes. My daughter played with her about as much as I did. Perhaps one of her daughters will take her down off the shelf and enjoy playing with her. It was like an O’Henry story, good intentions, always good intentions. Sometimes good intentions are hard to bear.