Dec 10, 2016

Best Christmas Present Ever

Best Christmas Present Ever

Our family begins asking, “What would you like for Christmas this year?” in October. Several years ago, I wanted to head them off.

Our kids were all in their twenties; students, newlyweds, one with a young child, two pregnant, busy, all underemployed in various stages of poverty, but each with a giving heart. They’d want to give me a Christmas present; gift giving is a big part of the season’s fun. Telling them, “Don’t get anything for me” would hurt their feelings. Besides, I like gifts!

I don’t need more Stuff, and at this stage of life, if I see something I’d like to have, I buy it myself. What could they give me that I’d really treasure, not tuck away on a shelf? If I could come up with a wonderful, meaningful, inexpensive gift, I’d be happy; bonus points if it was a long-term idea.
I pondered for days. 

What do I value? I value my family, the Savior, travel, conversation, and the power of Story. We’d taught our young ones to tell stories since they were tiny; it's part of the fabric of our family. Stories bind us together and set us apart as people. You don’t see raccoons sitting around telling tales, do you?

That was my answer: I wanted stories! I pondered for days, and settled on these criteria: I wanted a story from each adult and literate grandchild (one, at that stage). I clearly said, “This is not a let-the-wife-handle-it-type gift.” The story was to be non-fiction, preferably a memory from their own life, it could include me, but didn’t have to, and it was to be long enough to properly to tell the story, whether that be eight pages or six lines.

In October, I sent out a mass email to all of our children and their spouses, detailing the gift I wanted. Just think, all they had to do was write a story! It’s the perfect gift---no cost, except their time, no stress or shopping, and it’d be something I would cherish. My heart smiled as I imagined reading stories for Christmas, my birthday, Mother’s Day, and onward.

I was excited to hear their responses. Instead, my email was utterly ignored. Over the weeks approaching Christmas, my broad hints were brushed aside with a sighed, “Oh, Mom, really.” My heart sunk, resigned to another lovely throw pillow or bowl.

On Christmas morning, tears flowed, but not from disappointment. While I thought my kids were ignoring me, they were conspiring. A daughter bought plastic sheet protectors. A daughter-in-law was tasked with designing a scrap-book-type cover for the optimistic-sized loose-leaf bind my son was ordered to purchase. All of them wrote a story, just for me!

The stories gave insight into family members. I learned why a daughter-in-law’s family values education so strongly, and I could feel her shock in finding her dad’s 8th grade report card with a C+ on it, tucked in with his baseball award. Another daughter-in-law detailed the day of her engagement. I hadn’t known my son proposed to her on a cliff. As he knelt, he “accidentally” dropped the ring box into the valley a thousand feet below. As I read, I could imagine her scream echoing across the canyon, and her relief when he laughed and pulled the glittery ring from his pocket.  

My five-year-old granddaughter dictated her story, and drew a delightful, wobbly illustration of the stuffed felt chickens I had helped her sew the previous month. A son-in-law wrote of a camping trip on a sailboat in Alaska with his eleven siblings... and no running water. My daughter wrote of the things she had learned from me, her mother, and her hopes of being a good mother to her unborn child. Our son wrote of the joy he felt teaching the gospel and bolstering the sagging spirits of discouraged missionaries; in his mission, he was known as a “fixer.”

Another  son detailed memories of a family trip in which we played in the snow on a mountain, acquired sunburns in the high desert, sledded, swam, hiked through a canyon, toured an orchard and sampled new apple varieties under development, rode a ferry, visited a museum, splashed in  a waterfall, enjoyed an old-fashioned soda fountain, toured a hydroelectric dam, crossed a steel-mesh bridge on foot through an old-growth forest, climbed on a vintage train, played on a massive new playground, toured a candy factory (with samples), drove through desert, mountains, farms, forests, meadows, across rivers and valleys and canyons...all in two days. I sighed, remembering our many family vacations, most of which were just that packed. “As long as we’re nearby, we may as well see as much as we can” was an unspoken motto.

I wiped tears, I laughed, I choked up as I read each story aloud. My heartfelt response encouraged my kids: at last, they had a gift idea Mom loved! Every Christmas, birthday, and Mother’s Day since then, I’ve received a set of new stories. That optimistic-sized binder is stuffed now, as stories multiply and grandchildren grow old enough to add their own stories. On sad days, I take comfort in reading over my fat collection of stories. This truly is the best gift I could ask for.

Christmas is coming! If you love stories as much as I do, feel free to take my idea. 


  1. I love, love, love this idea. I am definitely going to implement this asap. Thanks for sharing Deb! Merry Christmas! hugs~

  2. Oh, glad you liked it! I'm looking forward to more stories this month. I even talked my mother into contributing. That binder is a treasure.

  3. Oh, glad you liked it! I'm looking forward to more stories this month. I even talked my mother into contributing. That binder is a treasure.


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