My favourite Christmas gifts are, and have always been, books. When I was six, my family had just moved to a small Quebec town where there was no bookstore that sold English books. My godfather gave me TEN BOOKS for Christmas. It was my best present. I remember distinctly that they were not all books for a 6 year old. They included Heidi and Little Women and The Wind in the Willows. I was busy with these books until my birthday in April.
I wrote a letter to my godfather to thank him for my present. I must have said something about wanting to have lots of books because he gave me FORTY BOOKS for my birthday. I still have some of those books. It is wonderful to have them because I no longer have my Godfather. Every year at Christmas, I pull out the books I have received at previous Christmases and reread them, remembering as I do the people who gave them to me, and especially my Godfather.
This Christmas, I will be especially grateful to have both the books and the memories. This Christmas, if you are feeling gloomy, you may have to fall back on memories of excellent Christmas visits. Let me help you think about these.
I remember Christmases with my father, who intervened in this very Christian holiday with meals of latkes and candlelit menorahs. He prayed in a language my mother’s family told people was Polish, except it was Hebrew.
I remember Christmas with my godfather, who was always reminded that he should give me “spiritual gifts.”
“I am giving her spiritual gifts,” he would drily reply. And he truly was.
I remember Christmas with my brother and sisters, waiting desperately to open gifts, and stockings, feeling so loved and so happy.
I remember the magic my mother brought into every Christmas. When you grew up depression-poor, you understood riches more than we can in this era of too much. When you grew up depression-poor, you know that money does not buy riches.
I miss all of these people, as I will miss the people I cannot see this year because of a pandemic. But this year, I will also be able to remember people whom I know I will see again, whom I know I will laugh with again.
(This is a Nativity Candle Mat I made for Caitlin. My son carried it to her one Christmas Eve when he was going to visit. I finished it just as he had to leave to catch his flight. I will miss her so much this year.)