December 20, 2019

Readers share stories of the best Christmas gifts they have given and received


‘Making others happy and giving joy’

By Debbie Hartman

I’ve given my share of nice gifts that I have loved to give and were much appreciated. I’m still pleased about this one!

It was autumn of 2009. I was at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, and we were watching the Indianapolis Colts, which is always fun for us, win or lose.

A commercial had come on for the iPod Nano, very popular at that time. It came in several beautiful colors—blue, red, gold, green, pink, purple, black and silver. They were made of aluminum and were beautiful.

The commercial was fun to watch, and I jokingly asked my nephew Zack (who was 15 at the time) if he wanted a Nano and what color he would like. He promptly said, “red.” I decided then that I would get a red iPod for his Christmas gift.

At the time, I worked downtown [Indianapolis] and was able to drive up to Keystone at the Crossing and visit the Apple Store. That was the only place where a red Nano could be purchased.

I asked for what I wanted, and the helpful store clerk showed a sample Nano and how it sounded. I purchased the iPod in a very nice box that held everything needed. Even the drawstring bag I received it in was well made.

I bought an iPod book to go along with the Nano that explained everything about it. All of it went into a gift bag—even the little drawstring bag. It was worth keeping.

Christmas Day was celebrated at my niece’s new house. It was an awesome day for us all, and especially for Zack when he opened the gift bag. He couldn’t believe he had received something so cool. He carried it in his backpack all though high school and IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis). He got much use out of it, and he still plays it on occasion.

Zack was so appreciative and happy with his gift. Seeing his surprise and happiness says so much about making others happy and giving joy. That’s what Christmas is all about.

(Debbie Hartman is a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.)


‘My greatest wish for Christmas’

By Cecelia Kiley

It was 1952, and I was 10 years old. The biggest desire among little girls at that time was to possess a Toni doll, a doll on which one could give a home-permanent. Some of my friends already had such a doll, so this was my greatest wish for Christmas!

Come Christmas morning, there under the tree sat this beautiful doll with long blond hair. The joy I felt in seeing the doll is hard to describe! I took loving care of my Toni doll, never having the courage to actually give her a permanent for fear of destroying her beautiful hair!

The doll is now 67 years old; has had a hair restoration only once; but the rest of her is original and still serene-looking as she sits in a rocking chair wearing a pretty blue dress made by my daughter-in-law along with a wreath of flowers upon her head. I still look at the doll with fond memories and as one of my most memorable gifts.

(Cecelia Kiley is a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Diocese of Lafayette.)


‘Thanks, I really love it’

By Nancy McKee-West

My best Christmas gift that I ever received was not wrapped in shiny red paper. It is a gift that is unwrapped year after year and one that I cherish with all my heart.

The year was 1986 and my father, Carl Genaro, had leukemia. During the 1970’s and 1980’s when my two sisters and I were married and had other families, Mom and Dad decided it would be best to have our celebration of Christmas the Saturday after Christmas.

In this particular year on Christmas Day, my husband and I had paid a visit to my maternal grandfather who was in a nursing home near where my parents were living. On the way home from our visit with my grandfather, we stopped in to see my folks.

Dad was resting on the couch. He was tired and looked weary. It wasn’t like my dad to be like this, especially on Christmas. Upon leaving their house, my heart was sad and tears rolled down my cheeks. I almost couldn’t stop as I knew that this would be my dad’s last Christmas. When I realized that fact, I decided that when we had our celebration, I would be very cheerful for my dad and not show tears.

Not showing tears and being cheerful were harder than I thought; however, it went as I had planned.

The house was decorated so pretty, dinner was almost ready and underneath the tree was a large assortment of packages for everybody—my mom, dad, my grandmother, my two sisters, husbands, the twins and the two grandchildren. Dad had made it clear how happy he was that the family was together on this, the holiest of days.

My gift came during the unwrapping of all those packages of sweaters, games and lotions. I looked over at my dad and saw all of his pain from the disease and saw his hope for the future of his family without him. I also saw his deep strength to go forth and his being cheerful.

Suddenly, the memories of past Christmases flooded my mind. I remembered how the Christmas season brought out a big change in dad, almost childlike. He would be more into mischief by making surprises for all, sneaking the freshly-made cookies from the oven, decorating the house with gusto and going to Midnight Mass and crying. You see, Dad’s mom had her birthday on Dec. 25. I think he thought a lot about her especially at Mass; thus his tears.

In 1986, I did get a shiny package and I cannot even remember what it was. There were so many presents for everybody, and the wrapping paper was flying or so it seemed. My best present came unwrapped, and it is the most wonderful of all. It was the gift of reflections and memories. Knowing that this would be my dad’s last Christmas this day has become a bittersweet celebration for me. Dad passed in April of 1987.

My gift of reflection and memories is re-opened year after year when I think of how strong Dad was on that Christmas in 1986, and how many memories he shared with me and my family: there were the trips to Fort Wayne to visit my Italian family, the sampling of dinner before it was on the table, the silly things that appeared in our stockings and all of his laughter.

Then, there was a donut cushion dad provided for me after my surgery in 1981, the phone calls to his grown daughters asking what Santa had brought them. Then there were the earlier memories of him playing with our toys like they were his, and the pink ice box that suddenly appeared on the front porch on Christmas day for my sister. The list goes on and on.

My gift of reflection and memories is something I learned and obtained on that Christmas in 1986. Dad gave this gift freely by showing us that we should live each day as if it were our last and to not let anything stand in the way of Christmas memories. Do not forget them; let them live deep within your hearts.

Even though my dad is gone, I still get to open my gift from him every year, and I do so with as much anticipation and glee as when I see the packages wrapped in pretty papers and bows.

Dad’s gift is like the Energizer Bunny: it keeps on going. In my family, the traditions, reflections and memories are from the past but are building bridges to the future. Don’t cry anymore Dad, as I am remembering and reflecting.

Thank you, Dad, for my present. I really love it.

(Nancy McKee-West is a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis.)


‘Good things come in small packages’

I was born in a small town in eastern Kentucky. When it rained a lot, a little branch of the river would overflow and flood the town.

I do not remember how old I was at the time, but it was very close to Christmas. My dad had gone to get my Gran and bring her back to our house. She lived in the flooded part of town, and we lived on a hill, away from the flood.

I was waiting with excitement for Dad to arrive with Gran. I looked forward to seeing her and the Christmas present I knew she was going to be bringing with her. It was almost all I could think about, the new big doll that could stand up on its own that I told her I was wanting when she asked me.

My Gran always got us the neatest things, so I was sure she was bringing my new doll with her. My mom, brothers, sisters and I waited anxiously for Dad, hoping he did not have any problems getting through floodwaters.

We kept looking out the window, hoping to spot the car at any moment. We were all relieved when we finally saw it coming down the road.

My Gran was a big part of our lives, and it was wonderful to see her again. She barely made it through the door when we were all around her.

After the greetings, hugs and talk of the floodwaters, the moment came when the gifts were presented from her. I was disappointed when she handed me a small gift, much too small to be the doll I had hoped for, and I knew she saw the disappointment on my face.

She just kept smiling after she handed it to me and told me “Good things come in small packages!” I could not imagine it being anything as grand as the doll, but I took it and opened it.

My disappointment quickly turned to pure joy when I opened that little box and inside was a brand-new Timex watch, with a black leather band!

I hugged her and could not thank her enough. She asked me what I thought of it as she helped me put it around my wrist, and I told her I loved it! I told her she was right: good things do come in small packages!

As I reminisce about that Christmas gift of long ago, I think about what Christmas is really about: that small, tiny baby Jesus given to us at the first Christmas, wrapped up in that small “package,” was all the love the Father has for us and the hope of the whole world, all the mercy and forgiveness we could ask for, and a light shining brighter than the sun to lead us to him and to heaven.

I loved my Gran and looked up to her a lot. She was a big influence in my life. She helped me learn my catechism when I was younger and taught me many life lessons.

And like that first small Christmas “package,” she taught me to have an unconditional love that I hope I have passed on to my children. Fifty years later, I still have that watch tucked away and always remember that good things do indeed come in small packages!

(Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, is a member of a parish in southern Indiana.)


‘Our memorable miracle Christmas’

By Arleen Loviscek Krebs

In 1973, we were living in Atlanta far away from family and friends. We had moved there three years previously for my husband to take a new job.

Alas, after three years, the company folded and we were stranded there with no job and it was Christmas week.

We had four young daughters, and no money for presents. We did have a tiny Charlie Brown tree with popcorn strands and ornaments cut out of old, felt pieces I had.

Out of the blue, we received a Christmas card from our favorite Aunt Annie. Enclosed was a $20 bill! She had gotten an unexpected bonus at her job and wanted to share it with us.

She had never done this before. On Christmas Eve, I was able to find some really good markdowns before the stores closed. Now I had some presents for the girls.

This was truly our memorable miracle Christmas!

(Arleen Loviscek Krebs is a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Indianapolis.)


‘The greatest Christmas gift I have ever gotten’

By Darlene Radtke

I was attached to a full-size green blanket that I received on Christmas Eve while I slept when I was 5 years old.

I remember going to bed with a towel over me to sleep. I was cold. On Christmas morning, I woke up warm to this wonderful blanket. I remember being so thrilled and happy that I had this blanket. I was told that Santa had covered me with it and gifted it to me.

I kept that blanket for many years. It helped me through my childhood and gave me comfort. I brought it with me when I moved into my first apartment on my own. By then, that blanket was pretty old but still covered me on my bed. I even brought it with me when I married at 25.

It was a sad day when I had to finally admit that it was time to let it go. I am 61 now, and I have never forgotten that feeling that blanket brought me on Christmas morning.

To me, it has always been the greatest Christmas gift I have ever gotten.

(Darlyne Radtke is a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis.)


A warm welcome

By Rita Weisenbach Jolley

Beyond a doubt, the most wonderful gift my family and I ever received had to be the successful delivery of our seventh son after a very stressful pregnancy where contact bleeding threatened to end it at any time.

The labor was difficult and tedious, but I truly believe that our Blessed Mother and her Son heard my prayers. Our tiny baby boy, Michael Robert, was born and survived on Dec. 21, 1961. We brought him home from the hospital on Christmas morning. He was warmly welcomed by a blended family composed of two sisters and six brothers.

One more brother was added on Feb. 16, 1964, totaling eight boys and two girls.

(Rita Weisenbach Jolley is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis.)


‘Joy to the world’

By M. John Khai Nou and Veronica Niang

The best Yuletide gift we’ve received for this 2019 Christmas is our second-born son, Ignatius Thang Vanglian, who

was delivered on Dec. 7, 2019, at Franciscan Health in Indianapolis.

The best Christmas presents we’ve given this year are Nativity greeting cards to one of my co-workers’ two little daughters.

Joy to world, the Lord has come! †

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