Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Your Gift

The holidays are upon us, and so are the tinsel-topping, jingle-belling, eggnog-noshing days leading up to Christmas itself. In the flurry of festivities, presents are purchased and wrapped—sometimes according to décor—and propped beneath a large, flocked Fraser fir decked in a thousand white lights. The packaging and the presentation are often as special as the gift itself, and the anticipation is as thick as Grandma Gertie’s country gravy.

Who doesn’t love gifts?

A number of years ago—long ago enough that I don’t remember details but recent enough that I remember that it happened—I had an epiphany around this time of the year, which is quite in keeping with the season. Although I can’t claim that my revelation could equal the Magi visiting the Christ child, I do believe that it was divinely inspired. Specifically, my celestial revelation was that we all have been given gifts. And they aren’t the kind you can wrap up and place on top of a tree skirt.

I was so bowled over with this aha moment (even though it’s more of a DUH! moment) that I quickly grabbed my stationery and pen and set about to writing a note to each member of my family. Thoughtfully, I considered the personal gifts that each brought to the table. It’s one thing to be told “Share your gifts with the world!” but an altogether different thing to acknowledge your personal gifts without feeling boastful or insolent. After all, we each have specific gifts that others don’t have, but we live in a world where sameness is esteemed.

That’s why we need to tell people their gifts.

For example, in my mother’s note I wrote that she had been given the gift of “creative enthusiasm.” While my artistic mother probably would agree that she can mix paints, see scale and depth and the nuance of color better than many, she would halt there. She would not acknowledge that one of her “gifts” actually spills over beyond the painter’s palette. But years ago, when my sister was living in an apartment in Birmingham, Alabama, my mother looked up from the parking lot to her balcony and declared that we were going to transform it into a hanging garden. My mom’s creative enthusiasm and vision led us to visit botanical nurseries throughout the area and ultimately spend the day converting a simple concrete block with aged wrought-iron railings into one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

I had only seen a second-floor balcony.

A few weeks ago, I spent an evening at my dear friend’s camp and as soon as I walked into the bedroom I was to sleep in, she pulled out a luggage rack for my overnight bag. Like the one you use in a hotel room (that is, if you don’t just plop your luggage down on the floor). She didn’t even break stride or slow her conversation as she grabbed my bag and placed it atop the straps. “You really have such a gift for hospitality,” I said, and I meant it. She always makes a party or a simple gathering look easy, and she has everything needed to host with efficiency and grace. This proved very helpful hours later when I realized I had not brought my toothbrush, and she quickly emerged with a new toothbrush still in its package. Lucky me!

In the above few paragraphs, I’ve revealed that I do not naturally possess the gift of decorative vision nor do I gift others with an ability to anticipate their every need. But, if you’ve read the above 600 words, hopefully you will surmise that I use my gift of writing to paint a picture I could never do with oils or florals. It has been a gift that has brought me more joy than it probably does the readers.

I’ve also been gifted by many others who have given me the space to write and the carte blanche to indulge my whimsical, and often ridiculous, interpretations on society and family. This column has been a blessing.

But it’s time for me to wrap this gift back up and move forward into a different life phase. I will always write, but I will no longer write my column through the pages of inRegister. It’s been 12 fabulous years and I’ve learned more about myself during the process. Stay tuned for my next phase—maybe I’ll have an epiphany this Christmas season that will lead me in a new direction. But in the meantime, acknowledge verbally or in writing the gifts that your loved ones bring to the table. It may be the best gift you have ever given.