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The gifts that last

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Life Matters

The presents have been opened, the wrapping paper has been thrown away, and the house is a bit of a mess.

You’ve sorted through what fits and what doesn’t; you’ve winced at the words, “assembly required,” and you’ve winked at that book you plan to read, maybe in March or April of the new year.

Other gifts beg to be enjoyed now: the tool set, the cozy slippers and the Xbox.

Among all you’ve given and received, there may be that one: the gift that lasts.

That’s the one you’ll remember down the years.

I received one of those a long time ago. And its memory stays with me to this day.

When I was in kindergarten, I got a football uniform one Christmas. I think it was a “Santa gift.”

Along with it, my older brother, Mark, gave me a pair of PF Flyers.

Those were my two favorite gifts that Christmas, and they were as one item to me.

For months, whenever we would have “show and tell” at Jack and Jill Kindergarten, I would wear that uniform and those PF Flyers. I can imagine the teacher thinking, “Again? Really?” But I didn’t care. I never tired of showing off my football suit and sneakers and re-telling how I was going to be a football player one day. I got called down more than once by the teacher for zooming around in my uniform and sneakers with a football tucked in my arm.

Believe it or not, the uniform survived so that my son, David Jr., would wear it when he was a little guy. But the PF Flyers were lost somewhere along the way. I wouldn’t be surprised if they disintegrated into thin air, as much I burned rubber in them.

Do you know what I remember the most about that gift? The smile on my older brother’s face when he watched me play in my uniform and sneakers. And to this day, he will occasionally brag that he is the one who gave me the best Christmas present I ever received as a kid. I have to remind him that Mom actually got the gift, he just signed the card. But to him, it was his gift to me. And I received it like it was.

We both laugh at that shared memory today.

And on occasion, when I’m alone, privately reminiscing about it, my eyes well up with tears.

You see, it’s the love, joy and surprise that goes along with the gift-giving and receiving that stays with us, warming our hearts like a cozy fireplace on a cold winter’s night. And suddenly, we are rejuvenated for the present. That’s what makes the gifts alive today, years after they have been worn out or lost.

Somebody said it like this: “If I could give you the best gift of all, I would give you the gift of love. This gift cannot grow old, cannot be destroyed, and even though death claims the person you love, this gift of love does not die.”

So, look around at all those gifts: the ones with the glitziest look will fade; the newest gadget will soon be replaced by a new and improved model; and that innovative kitchen item will break or wear out.

But the love in which they were given and the joy in which they were received will endure forever.

Those are the gifts that last.