The very best of gifts

My husband, Bob, and I had an interesting conversation the other morning. We were on our way to church, and as we drove, we noticed that the streets in our town were being decorated for Christmas. Big trucks were using cranes to heft shiny stars, candles and garland high up into the sunny November sky, promising the arrival of frosty temperatures and snowflakes.

Feeling a little leap of holiday spirit, I looked over at Bob. “You know, I’m really getting excited for Christmas. How about you?”

“Definitely,” he said. “And I have a feeling this will be a great Christmas if we don’t focus on material things and concentrate on what really matters — faith, peace and spending time with the people we love. Know what I mean?”

“Yep. No presents.” I must admit my enthusiasm dimmed a bit.

“Kim, I didn’t say that. We could each get a reasonably-priced gift.”

“Reasonably-priced, huh? Are we talking a one- instead of two-caret diamond, or a Pez dispenser with a Santa head?”

“Something in between the two,” Bob said with a smile. “But considerably closer to the Pez dispenser.”

Our holiday conversation made me think about the various Christmas gifts that I’d received throughout my adult years.

When my daughter, Val, and son, Buddy, were little, there was something called a “Santa Shop” at the elementary school they attended where kids could buy gifts for Mom and Dad. Since the children were between the ages of 5 and 11, Mom and Dad were pretty much buying their own presents, but, hey, it’s the thought that counts.

I remember getting notepads with “World’s Best Mom” on the letterhead, reindeer and snowman refrigerator magnets and Christmas ornaments with the year printed on them for future nostalgia’s sake.

One year, I remember getting a set of “Mrs. Claus” potholders and an apron, which gave proof to the fact that my children had a great sense of humor.

Regardless of their potential usefulness, each one was a gift from the heart, and that’s what mattered most.

My presents from Bob have pretty much run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime — think clown Chia Pet to an exquisite blue topaz ring. This has been the result of several factors — the state of our finances around a given Dec. 25 holiday, the effectiveness of my hinting (note to self: there’s no such thing as effective hinting. Instead, find the item in a catalogue, circle it in ink and wave it under the guy’s nose) and, lastly, whether I’d been naughty or nice.

Funny thing, but I’ve often treasured the ridiculous gifts more than the sublime. Or, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, maybe Christmas isn’t about presents … maybe it’s about something more. Sorry, every now and then I have a Grinch flashback.

Have Bob’s gifts always been perfect? Maybe not. But there is one gift he gave me many years ago that changed my life. He led me in the sinner’s prayer and was right beside me when I gave my heart to the Lord.

If I never get another present for the rest of my life, that’s OK. I’ve already received the very best.