A Gift

Was it a successful holiday season for you? Did you find all of the perfect things to show your loved ones that you care for them without (hopefully) drowning yourself in debt to do so? The holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, can be a difficult time for people with limited resources, or with large families that require mountains of gifts to show appreciation for relatives and friends.

Were you careful this year? My husband and I were—and we lucked out on top of that. My side of the family decided to downgrade on material gifts this year—only buying ones for my baby cousin instead, who’s only four. At first, I was relieved. We’d had some run-ins with a pesky shower that seemed to have a mind of its own, wanting to run water all day long. We’d been anticipating needing to replace the whole thing. A break in presents we would need to buy was a blessing.

I didn’t know just how much of a blessing though until we got together at my cousin’s house for Christmas Day. Not everyone stuck to the no-gifts rule, but we seriously downgraded. And all of the joy of opening presents continued, even without having ones to open ourselves. Baby Cousin was in his glory with new toys of all kinds—for fun, for learning, for creativity—even saying some of them were what he’d wanted for his whole life. We were pleased that it was the Play-Doh we’d bought him. Even for only four years of life, we felt this was a small victory.

But the joy he had in his presents, and the fun we had spending time together was the real present. We didn’t need to show each other how much we cared for one another with expensive trinkets that would only hold our interest a few weeks, or another sweater we’d wear once and then deposit with others in the closet until next season—if it was lucky.

We did what my Uncle Dave had told my cousin and I to do after the death of our grandmother several years ago. He’d pulled us aside and said—you have to make sure the family doesn’t fall apart over this event. You have to keep doing holidays together. You have to help one another. You have to be as one unit. While Uncle Dave has passed on too, I hope he was looking down on us from the hereafter, pleased that we were keeping the tradition of being together alive. While we hadn’t planned it because of what he’d said, we all kept it up regardless—for love, for kindness, for togetherness.

It was better than any gift we could have bought one another.

Marcie Herman Riebe

Marcie is a bilingual caseworker by day, a university adjunct by night, and an aspiring writer at times in between. An import to NEPA, she has been active in the arts for many years from theatre to forensics to music. Her interest in the arts continues as founder of Ink, an area writer's group, a founding member of Voce Angeli (NEPA's only all-female chamber choir), and as a columnist for Thirty-Third Wheel. She loves all things Pittsburgh, particularly the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics. She lives in Scranton with her handsome husband, Pete, and their horde of cats: Napoleon, King Ajax, Sam, and Dean.

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