The unlikely, perfect gift.

Have you ever thought about passing on a treasured relic to a friend or new addition to your family, only to hesitate, feeling they will find the gift lame and devoid of imagination. Or worse yet, that you don’t care, or know enough about them to find a perfect gift? I mean, what kind of smuck gives someone a used item?

I used to feel this way. My kid doesn’t want the watch I have treasured since the death of their grandparent, right? You would never give an old, used item to a new son or daughter-in-law, they may see you in a bad light. That was how I felt before I was given the best, old, used gift I could have received.

It was 1986. I had been in a relationship with a man I met at work for three years. As a divorced woman with two children I feared his family viewed me a someone looking for a meal ticket, despite the fact that I held down a job in hospital management. A meal ticket can mean more than money, it can mean medical insurance, better homes, cars, food and free babysitting. I truly loved this man, wanting nothing more than time together. I loved his parents also, they were the most down to earth, kindest people I had met in a long time. However I never had a handle on their feelings for me.

That changed Christmas day, 1986. I must explain that I collect Santa Claus’s, all types, all sizes. Our blended family was gathered at our house. We ate, talked, laughed and played with the children. After dinner we retired to the living room to exchange gifts. My future mother-in-law pointed to a gift under the tree she wanted me to open. I tried to whisk it off the floor but hesitated when it proved to be much too heavy to lift with one hand. Once the package was wrestled into place I swallowed as I tore open the paper. I felt my jaw fall south when I realized the box contained a cast iron, Santa cake mold I had seen displayed in my future mom-in-laws home. She told me that it had been her mothers, and then hers and she wanted me to have it in the home I was building for her son and her grandchildren. Double whammy! She not only thought enough of me to hand down this mold, she called my kids, from a previous marriage, her “grand kids!” That simple, used gift gave me more than an object, it gave me love and acceptance.

Years later, I received an odd gift from my own mother, it was a large, brass key, one I recognized as being the sole key to the door of the farmhouse I grew up in. A new lock had been added to the door but that large key still turned the ancient tumblers nestled in the door. She told me she wanted to make sure I “always” felt that I was able to return home, no matter what, I also had a copy of the key to open the new lock. It wasn’t a new Ipod, or piece of expensive clothing, but I cherished it more than any other gift that year.

Fast forward to 2011. My son has been in a long-term relationship with a woman we adore. They have two children together but are unable to marry as they would lose medical insurance for the children. It took a long time for his gal to warm up to us, at times I wondered if we could find ways to bond. As time ticked by I learned more about her likes and dislikes. I love her parenting style, she oozes loves for her children and does whatever necessary for their well-being. She looks out for, and worries over my son.

Recently, long after the tree has been taken down, the tinsel tossed and gift wrap cleaned up, she sent her oldest son in the house with a bag, whispering to him to give it to me. It is piece of statuary in the shape of a snowman that sports the logo of my football team. I was touched, it wasn’t an expensive gift, at this time of year it may have been in a discount bin, but it mattered. She tied in my love of the holidays and my favorite team. She had gotten to know me in her own way, even though she didn’t vocalize it. This simple snowman gave me, once again, the gift of acceptance. The fact that she thought enough about me to not only choose this item, but decorate it in tissue and put it in a fancy bag filled me with love. I see great things ahead for me and my daughter-in-law.

So don’t hesitate to give a loved one a treasured bowl, vase, book or anything else that is important to you. It will make them feel valued, trusted and accepted. Gifts you can’t buy in a store, but ones that will build a strong family.

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