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Gifts that are remembered

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I am pouring over gift catalogs to choose Christmas gifts for our 13 great-grandchildren. I strive always to have the gifts be somewhat equal in value. But this year I am trying to decide if I could make some of the gifts be for the whole family instead of a gift for each child. It is easier and maybe less expensive, but I worry that it may cause problems at the other end of the giving when the siblings have to share or decide what to play.

I leaned back in my chair to ponder this idea when my eyes fell upon a battered book in a nearby bookcase. It is "The Real Story Book," a large, 10- by 12-inch, 136 page book with colored illustrations of 20 retold stories familiar to children of that time. Some of the stories were, "How Jack Found His Fortune" (with use of a bean stalk) and "The Gingerbread Man" (who ran and ran as fast as he could).

This book was given to my sister Ellen and me by our Aunt Lyle when I was 5 years old. Ellen was old enough to read, and she would let me choose the story to read out loud for us both to enjoy. When I had the mumps my mother would let me take the book to bed with me and spend a long time choosing which story I wanted her to read to me. I can remember turning page after page of the now very familiar stories to select the one that was the most fun to listen to. My mother would groan when I chose the "Teeny Tiny Woman" (who lived in a teeny tiny house on a teeny tiny road --). But we would both end up laughing until my swollen neck hurt. Then, when Ellen came home from school I would show her what Mama had read and we would laugh again.

If we had any problems over the book I don't remember them. That is, I don't remember any until we were grown and we had to decide which of us got to keep the book. I'm not sure what I bartered that allowed me to keep the book, but I do think I remember another shared gift that went to her adult home. I have no idea how much this book cost Aunt Lyle, but it was a quality book published by Rand McNally so it wasn't cheap, I know. But since she had 13 nieces and nephews that she gifted each year I imagine it helped to double up on Ellen and me.

The value of that book was much greater than whatever she did pay for it. I loved the stories. I soon could almost recite them from memory. It was a gift that was shared not only by my sister, but my mother. I think I do remember one other time when I was sick that my father even came to my bedroom after supper and read one of the stories to me.

Later on, I remember the year I got the Flexi Sled, or another time I got shoe ice skates so I could go skating on the Reflection Pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Each of those was shared at times with my sister but they were given to just me. They were more fun because I could share them with Ellen.

Still later when I loved to have many records to play on my small record player, Ellen would help me select the ones to play any given night as we "studied" in our bedrooms.

I have now talked myself into giving shared gifts this year. I don't think any of these gifts I received through the years would have been as enjoyable if I used them all by myself.

Maybe I should send a copy of this column along with my gifts so the young ones won't think I am just taking the easy way out. I wonder if that was part of Aunt Lyle's method also.

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus