Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gifts That Really Matter

As the holiday season approaches, we see more quotes and posts about gifts, Santa Claus and Christmas lists. One that caught my attention lately says, “I think as you grow older, your Christmas list gets smaller and the things you really want for the holidays can’t be bought.” Reading this quote made me think how my Christmas lists have changed over the years.

Like any child, I loved dolls and soft toys but I had only a few as my parents could not afford to indulge me with presents. We were five kids and my dad’s job was not going well at the time. What mattered most to my parents was for us to be well educated and well fed. Dolls and toys were never a priority for them, even for Christmas. During my impressionable childhood, this was somehow upsetting to me. But now I have the perspective of a few years, and when I reconsider the situation, how much did I miss? Not much at all. On the contrary, having only what was strictly necessary made me appreciate more what was really important in life and motivated me to work harder and improve my status.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” ―Denis Waitley
I was 11 when the civil war started in my country. The surrounded violence turned me from a joyful extroverted child to an introverted teenager. I loved reading, drawing, listening to music and watching movies. The gifts that I enjoyed most were music tapes and CDs. I never had any interest in fancy gifts, and that never changed in me. In fact, I recall an incident in one of my wedding anniversaries; my husband surprised me with an expensive piece of jewelry. But he was disappointed upon seeing my facial reaction when I opened the gift. At that time, I wished that he had bought me Time Traveler, a set of five CDs by the Moody Blues that I had seen earlier with him. He knew how much I loved this band and how much I cherish such gifts. 

The years went by, and the thing I wanted most was to have a child. But this was not an easy task for me. Ironically, the only tests I ever failed in my life were pregnancy tests. But I never gave up. Deep down inside, I knew I would have my own kids. Finally, after 20 years of childless marriage, seven IVF trials, loads of medicines and injections, and three miscarriages I had beautiful twins, one of each gender.
“Everything you need will come to you at the perfect time.” ―Unknown
Since the day they were born, my twins were pampered with expensive presents by family members and friends. But what amazes me most is that my four-year-old kids are more interested in some unusual gifts that they can buy from a vending machine in a local store, made of very small plastic boxes that cost almost nothing, each of which contains each a small toy. My daughter and son are always fascinated by these tiny gifts, which may contain fake jewelry, colorful bouncing balls, tiny cars or some build-it-yourself toys. This reminds me that the joy brought by any gift has nothing to do with its size or material value; it’s only the pleasure of unfolding it and discovering what is inside that matters most.
“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” ― Boris Pasternak
Almost two years ago, my father died at the age of 94. He left behind some great stories and memories. When I visit my parents’ house, I always expect him to appear from behind, but he doesn't. There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone we love, and why even make the attempt? Our memories and gratitude are our precious gifts that can fill the emptiness created by the loss of our loved ones and transform the pain of their loss into acceptance. 

Thus, the gifts that I appreciate most are the ones that are useful in my life—that is:
  • Love, to give and receive abundantly.
  • Peace, to be able to live freely and with dignity.
  • Time, to live and love the way it matters to me. 
“Everything I know, I know because of love.” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

* I would like to thank my friend Richard Pennington for his most valuable comments!
* Corel Drawing by Hoda Maalouf