The Gift
Rachel Naomi Remen

  

Every Christmas Eve when I was small my father and I would take the subway to downtown Manhattan and go shopping for presents for my mother, my aunt, my friends, my teacher, and other important persons in my life.  These were special, even magical times.  Everything was decorated for Christmas.  The windows of the stores up and down Fifth Avenue were magnificent, and some even had whole mechanical villages that moved or a mechanical Santa that waved.  It was almost always cold, and the nighttime streets were crowded with smiling people carrying beautifully wrapped packages, the women in furs and the men in overcoats with velvet collars.  Thinking back on it now after more than fifty years, it seems to me that I could see the joy in people shining in the streets.  Christmas music poured out of every open doorway.  In my memory, it is always lightly snowing, and everyone had snowflakes on their coats and in their hair.

We would start at Rockefeller Plaza and stare in awe at the enormous, beautifully decorated tree, debating whether this year's decorations were more beautiful than last.  They always were.  We would watch the skaters for a while.  And the we would move slowly down Fifth Avenue, stopping in every store, thinking of the people I loved, one at a time, looking at many, many things until I found just the right one for each of them.

At some point during the evening, my father would hand me his big gold pocket watch and tell me that when it chimed I was to come and meet him right where we were standing, and then I would go off alone in whatever store we were in to find his present.  While I was gone, my father would do a little shopping of his own.

I got to stay up late, far later than my usual bedtime, and it was often close to midnight when we got home, our arms filled with boxes, each of which had been specially wrapped at the store.  My mother always had cocoa waiting, and we would show her the beautiful boxes and tell her about the wonderful things we had found for everyone--but not, of course, what we had found for her.

It was a chance to think about each one of my beloved people, who they were and what might make them glad.  I remember the indescribable feeling of finding each present and the joy of recognizing it as just the very thing.  There was much pleasure in choosing the paper and ribbon and watching it wrapped in a way that was as special as the person it was for.  I loved finding these presents.  It made me feel very lucky.

In thinking back, I realize that I never actually saw many of these presents opened.  They would be mailed away or left under other people's Christmas trees.  Somehow this never mattered.  The important moment wasn't in the opening, or in the thanking.  The important thing was the blessing of having someone to love.
  

   

Through a series of unpretentious, affecting vignettes, the author of the bestseller Kitchen Table Wisdom encourages readers to recognize and celebrate the unexpected blessings in their own lives.  She gently illustrates her advice through simple yet powerful stories. "Wisdom," Remen writes in this exceptional book, "lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything."

  
   

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