What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
When I was a little girl I loved the piles of beribboned boxes under the tree-- what child doesn’t? The fun was in watching your pile grow, and in tearing off all that shiny wrapping to discover the treasures inside.
It wasn’t about quality back then. I was drunk on the magic of Christmas morning. I just wanted presents.
As an adult my focus for both giving and receiving naturally shifted through several phases—the jewelry phase, the clothing phase, the designer anything phase, the homemade phase, the baking phase, the electronic phase, the book phase… etc., etc., etc.
Which brings me to what this column is really all about. We go through the various stages of Christmas gift mania when we’re young. It doesn’t mean we’re bad or that our children are greedy, it’s just what we were taught as children. Santa, the tree, the presents—that’s a huge part of Christmas to a lot of Americans.
It’s only later that we begin to suspect the real message of the holidays is embodied in something else—something less materialistic and more spiritual, no matter your religion.
And so after all these years I’ve discovered the best gift of all.
Time—as in the ticking of the clock and the turning of the calendar page.
The worst thing about the passage of time is obvious--we grow old. Few can say they face the shortening of their lives with absolute equanimity. I miss things about being young—smooth skin, slim figure, health that is taken for granted. Most of all I miss the supreme optimism of youth and the stubborn belief in my own immortality. Time steals away that confidence as reality muscles its way in.
There’s the flip side, though. The passage of time gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, correct them and move forward, always forward.
You come to a deep understanding that the greatest gift you can give or receive is time spent with people you care about.
The precious nature of time hit home this year as I watched loved ones struggle with severe health issues.
Some of our family members have passed on, too soon for the rest of us. We wanted to show them more love, more happiness and more wonder.
But we ran out of time.
Time has taught us that every person is precious. Every minute with them counts.
It seems cruel that just when we figure out the importance of time, it begins to dawn on us that there’s not enough of it left.
So this year, wrap the gifts, stuff the stockings and make your lists.
But don’t forget the most important—and fleeting-- gift of all.
Give them your time.
Peace and Love-- and Happy Holidays.