Friday Firesmith – The Best Christmas Gift

Friday firesmithI was married for 989 days but that’s 17 dog years. The one thing I hated about being married was she was bad with money and I had always been very frugal. Things were headed for the end long before they got there and in the winter of 2001 her mother was dying. We went to Texas to make the final arrangements and honestly, we didn’t have gas money to get there and back much less do anything other than that.
The thing about Texas is the people there know Texas is different. It’s not so much a state in the union as it is a state of mind. I liked Texas. I liked Texans. And universally, the people of Texas were very nice people. Most of them have an odd sort of sympathy for non-Texans, as if we were cursed at birth for having been born somewhere else, but it isn’t something to be held against us.

Texans have good breakfasts. There was a small diner my future former wife and I went to one morning and it had all of that stuff the doctors tell you is bad for you but your body runs on for half a day of hard work. They assume you want your coffee black because it’s Texas. The waitress said what all Texans say, “Where are you from?” which isn’t a question at all but a way of establishing that you aren’t from Texas and deserving of some sort of consolatory gesture from the natives.

Across the way from us was a man with four kids. It was Christmas morning and there he is with these four kids and it is pretty obvious he’s got his hands full, but the kids are fairly well behaved. He’s directing traffic with what they want, what they already have, who is doing what, and the kids are being decent about the whole thing. The waitress is helping as much as she can, cooing and petting the kids. The man is trying to figure out how he can get enough breakfast for all those kids and he’s handling it all with a lot of civility.

It would take about a hundred fifty bucks worth of gas to get back to Georgia and I knew it was going to be tight as it was. Any sort of emergency with the truck would have screwed us and we had to get on the road if we were going to beat the ice storm that was heading our way. I sent my soon to be ex-wife to the truck to get it warmed up and I paid for our meal, and gave the waitress a twenty so she could make sure the man and the four kids got a decent meal in them. Without missing a beat she grabbed me and hugged me and then went back into the kitchen and said something about pancakes.

I think that was the best Christmas gift I ever gave anyone.

What about you?

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


8 comments to Friday Firesmith – The Best Christmas Gift

  • Grog

    A few days ago I gave some money to the sons of a guy I read about who wanted to help their Dad finish restoring his old Lotus Elan, as he had contracted a terminal disease. I got some free help from a few friends when I was restoring an old Lotus a few decades ago, so it hit a soft spot of mine.

    Anyway, I can’t say that I have given money I needed pretty badly myself like you did, Mike, so you get a big attaboy from me. Maybe there’s no comments on this post because no one wants to measure their meager generosity against yours.

    • I think it’s hard to appreciate the small things sometimes, Grog. Twenty bucks doesn’t seem like that much until it’s most of what you have or more than you have. At the same time, it mean more to me because it was a lot of money when I needed to keep it and it was a lot of money to the kids who likely were getting everything they were going to get for Christmas. Sometimes I think humanity at the smaller level means a lot more than all the large organizations in the world.

  • Heidi Jo

    The “best” Christmas gift I gave was to my grandmother years ago. She has a bunch of old photos that have been weathered throughout the years. I took a few courses on how to fix missing hands in photos and such. I went to her house when she wasn’t home and collected photos of her parents (they died in the 1940′s) and photos of her and my grandfather who had died the year prior and of my mom, aunts and uncle. I made a calendar with old photos and restored photos and I put a quote with each photo. For November, which was the month my grandfather died I put a quote that she told my grandfather as he was a mere minutes from the end of his struggle with Alzheimer’s, was “they said it would never work out- but we got to grow old together- didn’t we?”. And December was the month their only son died so I put his high school graduation photo there but I can’t recall which quote I used. She cried almost the entire time she looked through the calendar but I could tell she was genuinely thankful. And although it didn’t cost me anything but time- it was the greatest gift I can say I’ve given for Christmas. I remember being so proud that everyone wanted to see what I made for her and they all thought it was awesome. I ended up spending less than anyone else did on their gifts, but I can honestly say she was more thankful for the gift I gave her than anything I ever could’ve bought.

    • One of my neighbors did something like this for his 95 year old aunt. I’ve never seen a woman so totally affected by a gift. It was totally awesome. She’s still alive and she still talks about those photos and how much better they look.

      You’ve done more than you may know, Heidi Jo!

  • Jester

    We each give what we can in the moment. The twenty was more than money at that moment in time. I like others who have shared often give the gift of time. For me giving goes beyond the holiday season as life throws things at unexpected times. It might be as simple as giving a ride to a neighbor or friend who is unable to drive themselves. It might be stepping aside and offering another person in line to step ahead of me; opening a door for a mother with a baby stroller or a person using a walker. Once in Macy’s I watched a sales clerk deal with a rush of customers all wanting her attention now. She tried helping me but I said I would wait. When she finished ringing up my order I could tell she was still rattled I quietly asked if she could use a hug, she accepted. I try to pay it forward. God bless you and a late happy holiday.

  • It was odd because my parent’s divorce was not nice and only a few years old, but I snagged some old film from my mom’s house that I had seen in a drawer for many years while growing up, and I had it put on videotape. It turned out that it was film of my parent’s wedding, with my grandfather that died shortly after, and another film of my folks and me, as a newborn.
    So I took that 25 or so year old 8mm film, that I had stolen from where they forgot, and made into a form they could see again. Nothing changed, and I didn’t expect it to, but separately they relived old, good memories and celebrated relatives as seen back then and lost since.
    I don’t know if it was the best gift I’ve ever given, but at the time I thought it worked out pretty good, and seemed appreciated and, well, good for them and some other family members at the time.
    Ever forward.

    • Scokat, I think more people ought to do things like that. You and Heidi Jo are both on to something here. The salvaging of memories are something that cannot be measured in value as far as money goes.

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