Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

12/9/09

The Best Gifts of All

When I think about all the Christmas gifts I've given, my favorite is one that cost no more than a couple dollars. When I was in my mid twenties I bought a small hardcover blank book. Beginning several months before Christmas I filled it with memories of my mother. I included silly jokes that the two of us shared, anecdotes of times spent together, and reasons why I loved and appreciated her. The quality of the writing was not very good and I didn't fill the book completely as I had hoped, but when Christmas Eve arrived I wrapped it up and placed it under the tree. My mother was oblivious to all its imperfections and it became one of her most treasured possessions.

Several years later I did the same thing for my father and mailed it out to Colorado where he lived. His wife later told me that when he unwrapped the book and began reading, it was the only time she ever saw him cry.

Both of my parents have died now. I'm so glad I took the time to make these books for them while they were still alive. It's true that you don't need money to give a meaningful gift.

On the other hand, the best gift I ever received was not handmade.

As a child I was fascinated by balloons. I wanted to grow up to be a balloonman. Then one Christmas when I was a teenager I received only one small package beneath the tree. When I unwrapped it, it was a bag of balloons. "Go look in the garage," said my mother. Next to our car I found an industrial-sized tank of helium. For the next six months I was the balloonman I had always wanted to be, sending notes up into the sky, making a tiny gondola to carry the neighbor's hamster, and flying anything that was light and could be filled with helium (balloons, baggies, plastic gloves).

Sometimes the best gifts are free, and sometimes they're the result of creative thinking.

8 comments:

Stephanie said...

David, this made me weep. You are a man with a remarkable and beautiful spirit, and it's a gift just to know you.

Lauren said...

This post made me cry. The books you made for your mom and dad sound like the perfect gifts-- the memories have so much meaning. And balloons! How wonderful! Ruby wanted to sell balloons when she was very little, only she called them "bagoons". Thank you for this post David. It is a gift.

Christy said...

You are such a sweetie. I think I shall copy you this year. My mom will be 88 next July! She suffered a small stroke this year, but is fine. Still, it made me realize that whatever remaining time we have together is precious. I will make her a book.

When we moved from Brooklyn, my daughter and her best friend, who were only 6 at the time, tied messages of hope about their friendship to balloons, and ceremonially released these wishes to the heavens in helium balloons. They also dropped messages in bottles in the East River.

I would say you should make a book about this, except somehow NOT like the movie UP. DId you see that? I will think of you now when I see helium balloons.

john said...

David, thanks for this beautiful post. What a wonderful story about your relationship with your parents and the spirit of the holiday. And I love your dream of being the Balloon Man. In many ways you are.

Prof. Watermelon said...

Wow, I am sooooo gonna do this. Almost brought tears to my own eyes! Thanks for sharing that, David!

Edie said...

David,
You have so many different facets revealed in your various posts. What wonderful Christmas gifts to your parents and I love the image of you as the balloon man. That definitely should be a picture book, and be sure to include the tiny gondola carrying the neighbor's hamster!

David LaRochelle said...

I'm delighted if my post inspires anyone to make a memory book for someone who is special in his/her life. As I said, I am very grateful I did this for my parents while they were still alive. It's not nearly as daunting of a task as it might seem; I jotted down one or two thoughts or memories each evening, and before I knew it I had a sizable collection. And don't worry about filling up the whole book! Tell the recipient that the blank pages are for all the memories yet to come!

Mark said...

A great post, David. Very moving and appropriate for this, or any, time of year. Thanks for sharing.