Monday, December 21, 2015

The Best Gift I Ever Gave

Last week I wrote about the wonderful Christmas Tea I attended for the ladies in our neighborhood. I told about the question I received: what is your earliest Christmas memory?

Today I want to answer another question someone else was asked: what is the best gift you ever gave?

Lots of people can answer what gift they received was the best, but how many of us have thought about the best one we ever gave?

For me, it was a no-brainer.

The gift that brought me the most satisfaction as the giver was one I gave to my mother many years ago.

She and Dad were married while he was in the military. She lived in a little detached apartment behind her parents’ house. She paid rent and worked full-time. Dad sent nearly his entire paycheck home to Mom, who faithfully put it in the bank. (He earned his spending money by playing poker with his fellow soldiers. He volunteered for duty when they were on leave, and then he snookered his buddies when they returned to base after carousing.)

By the time Dad returned home in the fall of 1945, Mom had saved enough for the down payment on their first home. She continued to save until they bought their house in Alhambra in the fall of 1948. By then, she had enough for the furnishings as well. (We lived in the ‘little house’ behind my grandparents until I was twenty-six months old.)

Her pride and joy was her dining room set, a Duncan Phyfe table and four chairs. It barely fit in our tiny dining room, but Mom loved it. She always said she’d like to have a corner china cabinet to go with it, but Dad died six years after they bought the house, so she could never afford the additional piece of furniture.

Over the years, she moved several times, and her table and chairs moved with her.

Around 1980 or so, she moved to an apartment in Alhambra with larger rooms. At the same time, I received a promotion and a raise. This was in the days of the Christmas bonus, and I received a large one that year.

In those days, one of our regular activities was to visit the mall several times a week after work. We sometimes ate dinner or window shopped, but we enjoyed spending time there just wandering from store to store.

In around October, I wandered into a lamp store and spotted a small corner china cabinet. It was just the size of the one Mom had always wanted. I honestly thought it was walnut, and Mom’s set was mahogany, but both were dark, and I thought they just might go together. But the price was far out of reach.

For the next few weeks, I continued to ‘visit’ the china cabinet every time we were at the mall. Sometime in November, it was marked down to half price—still more than I could afford.

On the day we received our bonuses, we went to the mall as usual. The china closet had been moved to the clearance section—at half off—one quarter of the original price. My bonus would more than cover it.

I wanted to get it for Mom, but it was still a lot of money. So we went to dinner and talked about it. I knew the piece of furniture was meant to belong to Mom, and Larry agreed. (He adored her until the day she died, so he had no reservations.)

We bought it, loaded it into our van, and called my brother to meet us at Mom’s apartment. While my daughter, Kim, and I kept her in her bedroom, Larry and my brother brought it in, set it up, and plugged it in.

I’ll never forget Mom’s face when she first saw it. Not only was it mahogany, but it matched her set perfectly! Even the design on the trim matched the style of her chair backs (an unusual one). It was certainly meant to be.

When she eventually moved into our home, it was the only piece of furniture she brought with her besides her bedroom set. (We put the table and chairs into storage until Kim could use them in her own place.)

Eventually, Mom moved to a retirement home, and Kim gained possession of the china closet. She now has it in her home in Texas.

The day we delivered the china closet to my Mom was one of the best of my life, and hers as well.

What is the best gift you ever gave, and why?

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