So, this is a personal one, but 'tis the season, am I right?
The internets are full of gift guides of all kinds (I myself have whipped up a few) but I thought I might share the three best gifts that I've ever been given, and not one of them is a material item.
My mom is kind of amazing. She worked so very hard throughout my childhood to make sure that we had a hope chest full of memories to take with us once we were no longer under her roof. As a child, I'm not sure that I fully appreciated all of her efforts but that now that I'm a mom you best believe that I'm in awe of the effort, thought and dedication she put into making our holidays so special.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that each of the three gifts came from her.
1. A lifetime of ornaments.
Growing up, we were lucky to travel quite a bit - whether it was a trip to Disney or a family trip to the beach, my parents worked so hard to give us an appreciation for adventure. On each trip, my mom would search out the perfect ornament and when she found it, she would buy three of them, one for our family tree at home, one for me and one for my brother. She would jot down the date, time, our ages and quick memories on the box and then stash them away in separate boxes for my brother and myself. I always saw our family ornament on the tree when we decorated but didn't think much of the extra ornaments that I knew she was collecting. On Christmas morning the year I was a senior in college, my mom gave me my ornament box -an entire lifetime of travels, memories and moments to take with me to my first apartment and first Christmas tree away from home. I waited until my first Christmas in Charlotte to open the box and guess who showed up at my door to help me....my mom. She and I (and my baby brother!) went through each ornament and hung them on my teeny tiny tree. Justin and I continue the tradition and search out the perfect ornament for each trip that we go on - we will do the same for Gray so that he too always has a Christmas tree that reminds him of how loved he is.
2. The Recipe Box
The first Christmas that I was a "grown up" (otherwise known as a 22 year old living in her own apartment), I asked for pots and pans for Christmas. You know you're a grown up when. Anyway, I honestly needed so much that year - a vacuum, groceries, health insurance - that I asked for all utilitarian gifts from my family. My parents took pity on me and handed down a set of pots and pans that they had used for years and inside of one of the boxes was a recipe box. I assumed it was a blank set that my mom thought I might fill out for myself and just as I was about to tell her about Pinterest, she told me to open it. The recipe box was full of handwritten recipe cards. My mother had spent months mailing out recipe cards to my grandmothers, my aunts, uncles, family friends, important teachers, my childhood babysitter, anyone who had played an influential role in my life, and asked them to fill out a recipe for me. So many of the recipes are ones that I remember or hold sentimental value -my first babysitter included her hand made play dough recipe that she had made for me when I was a toddler, my grandmothers included recipes that are family legend and friends included recipes that they knew I loved. There are probably 50 recipes in that box, each handwritten, and some hold the handwriting of people who are so dear to me that have passed. As I start to build traditions for my little family, I find myself reaching for that box so that I can make my Mimi's sausage and egg casserole (our Christmas morning breakfast) and my Grandaddy's salted pecans (that he, and then my grandmother, have made for me ever Christmas that I can remember) so that Gray can experience them too.
3. Baby Journals
I was given the third gift just last Christmas, my first Christmas as a mother. My mom handed me a box to open and the second I did, I burst into tears. She gave me three spiral bound notebooks that were her journals over the first years of my life. She documented everything from my fevers to her travels away from me as a working mother. In all honesty, I can't bring myself to read through very much in a sitting because the little notes make me feel extremely emotional. Knowing that she felt some of the exact same emotions that I am currently experiencing just overwhelms me with feelings. All of the feelings, honestly. As mothers, we all want the same things for our babies and seeing my mother's wishes for me and her efforts to learn to be the best mother that she could be makes me feel so very grateful to her, but most importantly, it makes me feel like I might not be screwing this motherhood thing up after all. I want so much to parent like she did, to develop and cultivate a family bond and build memories for Gray that always leave him feeling loved, but knowing that she struggled to remember the last time she gave her baby Tylenol or that she forgot to document her first born's 10 month birthday (God forbid!) let's me know that I'm doing ok. I'll get there, just like she did.
My three best presents are also my three most treasured possessions. As a daughter I am so grateful and as a mother I am so inspired to show my son the meaning of giving as my mother has showed me.
I hope that you each have a magical holiday with those that you love,