Perchance, on this the twenty-second commemoration of a lesson learned, it is time to reflect on our first, foremost, and greatest Teachers. More than a generation has passed. In that time, I have acquired much knowledge. Yet, I am forever reminded that the more I know, the more certain I am. I know nothing with certainty. What I once thought was the greatest treasure, a tradition I could never part with, was other than it appeared. I never imagined what would become my truth. Today, I share the tale with you.
Originally Published December 25, 2009
On this the twenty-first year anniversary of my first holiday season without what are thought to be tangibly traditional gifts, I can truly say that, I, Betsy, remember it well. The occasion changed my life forever.
It was October 12, 1988. Mommy, Berenice Barbara sat across from me at the kitchen table. This was just as it had been all of my days. We chatted cheerfully. Conversation between us was never superficial. Nonetheless, for us, serious contemplations were fun. A pleasure for the profound has not left me. It was and is the reason I revel in the company of my Mom.
On this one extraordinary occasion, Mommy declared my family would no longer celebrate any of the conventional holidays as we had. No presents would be exchanged in the future. Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, whatever we might wish to call the customary holiday, in our family home little or large luxuries given would not appear. None would be purchased or placed under a tree. Trinkets would not sit on a shelf, nor would these be stashed in a closet for a charitable sharing on a December day. The season of gift giving would not be ours.
Once the words entered my ears, I exclaimed in horror. I inquired; why would this be our newly adopted truth.
In her defense, Berenice Barbara offered a dismissive statement that I knew was suspect. Mommy had never thought the notion of age appropriateness a wise or welcome one. She forever spoke of the need to honor individuals for whoever they might be. My Mom often discussed; people need not be constrained by a chronological age. Yet, perchance her experience of my reaction caused her to offer a rapid retort. “You are too old for presents,” she proclaimed. “Too old?” I responded. For minutes, we talked to no obvious avail.
It seemed nothing could be done to change my Mom’s mind, thankfully. Her steadfast stance evoked my evolution.
Days later I learned, her own distress for what had recently occurred in our lives encouraged this unexpected and ultimately, very welcome reflection.
While it is true, on that day, Mommy and I had our first and only significant argument, I am grateful for what emerged. The lesson I learned was a truer value than any bobble or bangle. Occasions are worthwhile when one feels no sense of obligation to give or receive. Gifts are given daily in every exchange.
A word, a touch, a look, the mere presence of a person can mean more to those who bequeath and receive than any material object might. This veracity is one that fills our hearts, our heads, our bodies, and souls.
More than a score has passed since that date. I look back on what, for me, was once an unbearable idea. Today, I cherish what has been my ideal.
To those beings who I experience as beloved, beautiful, inside and out, to individuals familiar to me, and who intentionally interact in a manner that honors reciprocal reverence, you are the gift. Your presence in my life is all that I cherish.
I thank you Mommy! I like and love you more than mere words might ever begin to express. You, just as all beings, are genuinely a gift!