No matter how much we resolve to downsize Christmas and spend less yet give more, we wind up overwhelmed by stuff. Yet when the dust settles and wrapping paper is recycled, I can appreciate that truly thoughtful giving has transpired. In the madness of going around the room opening and exclaiming, sometimes we don't properly express how touched we are.
The siblings in my family, along with our spouses, have been participating in a gift exchange for several years now. What I love about our gift exchange is that each one of us focuses on one gift for that one person we have and spend as many as several months planning: asking for possible leads, considering options, etc. This year in particular, I felt that great thought and love went into our gifts. I'm listing some, as well as other memorable presents given and received by friends and family members:
1. My parents donated three laptops for use by children in developing countries in our name. Since my father has been generous with his computer hand-me-downs to his children over the years (I think I had one of the first "portable" computers with me at college), this gift is particularly appropriate and meaningful.
2. My brother and sister-in-law-to-be gave my husband and other brother (whose names they drew) a day trip to a nearby ski mountain. On the card: "Please note: no wives, kids, animals, or tears."
3. Most of our wedding-registry wine glasses are broken; my sister replaced them with mix-and-match etched glasses found at a vintage store.
4. My brother-in-law-to-be, who is Belgian, brought the family a copy of his favorite children's book starring Tin-Tin, and my sister gave my brother's fiancee a piece of Belgian lace for use in their wedding next year.
5. My sister-in-law is a mother of three and surrogate mother to many of the neighborhood's children. She has a minivan in which she ferries her own and others' kids. My sister claimed her car for the day, and had it detailed and reorganized the contents. The day after Christmas, my sister and her fiance took the nephews and niece and gave her a much-deserved day and night off!
6. My aunt gave us gift certificates to a handcrafted wooden-toy store in Vermont.
7. My husband and I gave my brother, a chef, all the materials to build his own herb garden.
8. My resourceful sister-in-law-to-be used plastic containers to make a sticker box full of stickers for my niece and a "jewelry" box for my daughter--overflowing with costume jewelry and hair accessories.
9. My sister and sister-in-law refurbished and repainted doll beds for my daughter and niece.
10. We bought some snowbushes to plant at my dear friend's (and my daughters' godmother's) house--a family project this weekend!