Gifts That Get Better with Time by Robin Trimingham
As we enter the season of frenzied shopping leading up to Christmas, I thought I would offer a few examples of timeless gifts that have been given to me by friends who are older and wiser than myself.
The first, is a piece of advice offered by one of my newest acquaintances. She turned ninety this year and is looking forward to spending the holidays with a combination of over fifteen grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Recalling the difficulty that some older people have remembering the names of all the younger members of their family, I casually asked if It was stressful having such a large family; whereupon I was quickly corrected!
“Oh no,” she replied, “I don’t give gifts. I give time”.
Apparently, she decided years ago, not to give things; instead she makes herself available for family meals and outings and babysitting all through the year. This past thanksgiving for example, her extended family gathered at her house several nights in a row and shared dinner together at an enormous table on her front porch.
What I admire most about her approach is her recognition that, far from fearing that she is running out of time at her “advanced age”, time has become something that she has an abundance of to give to everyone.
The second is something that I was reminded that my grandfather used to do when I was a child. Starting about the Christmas that I was ten, we would arrive at his house for a huge family lunch. Besides the usual present under the tree for each member of the family, there were three white envelopes tucked into the branches of the tree itself. Although prominently displayed, they were also high enough off the ground that little hands could not reach them, and the longer they sat there, the more I began to wonder what they were.
It was not until well after all the gifts had been unwrapped that my grandfather quietly crossed the room and retrieved the envelopes, handing one to each of myself and my sister and brother. Then, explaining that Christmas was about more than just presents, he told us to open the envelopes. Inside we found a poem that he had written for each of us.
I will admit that I was not immediately sure what to make of this eloquent gift, but the envelopes kept appearing in subsequent years and I had a whole collection of poems by the time finished high school (in fact I still have one tucked away in a drawer). What I did not find out until years later was that he left school at the end of the eighth grade to work in his father’s grocery store and was never able to finished his education. He had taught himself how to write poetry by reading the works of other poets as an adult.
He passed away many years before I started this blog, but I think he would be pleased if he knew that his unspoken lesson that you can accomplish anything if you want it badly enough still resonates with me to this day.
By Robin Trimingham