Giving Joy

Locals Share Memorable Gifts From the Heart

A Little Magic, A Lot Of Sparkle

By Wendy Clough

Several years ago, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband died suddenly.  

Let’s just say, I was certain our holiday for that year was doomed from the get-go. I had two little girls at the time and I really wanted this special time of year to continue to feel joyful to them; I was hoping their dad’s death was not going to cast a dark haze over holiday seasons for years to come.  Of course, it did leave an indelible mark, but I was still hoping for moments of magic & sparkle.

An email arrived that changed our Christmas in such a sweet way. An Eastside company had heard our story and wanted to help provide some magic & sparkle at that dark time. They had no preconceived ideas about what they should do, they just asked me what I would like. I told them I simply would love whatever they could do to keep magic in the holidays for my girls. They were set loose to come up with a plan, and then they got to work.

It was an incredible day; fifteen people in my house, doing for me, for no other reason other than to make my girls smile. They scurried about like Santa’s Elves, adding decorative touches all over our home, bringing more and more holiday spirit through the front door.

One woman, who was part of the group, pulled me aside and confided she had also endured a huge loss— her daughter’s dad had died just a few years earlier.  I shared a very big secret with her that day; I was expecting a baby, our third child. I hadn’t told the girls yet, but soon another baby girl, who we named Hope, would join our family.

The house was abuzz with activity. At the end of the day, they said they had something to show me. I walked outside where I was surprised by magic & sparkle, they had quietly installed a galaxy of Christmas lights.

Later that night, it was awesome to hear shrieks of laughter as the girls spied the flickering lights. The incredible gifts from those wonderful people can never be quantified. It lasted all season, and lasts to this day, each year when I reach for that much needed magic & treasured sparkle.

Eat Dessert First

By Rebecca Johnston

The Easy-Bake Oven was one of the most coveted toys of my childhood. However, when I was the target age of Kenner’s revolutionary “bake with a lightbulb” appliance, my mother was a single parent on a limited income. Despite always being on my wish list, I never got to open one.

Fast forward to the year 2000. I was living in an apartment with my boyfriend, Mac. We had started searching for a home to buy together and we were getting grief from my mother about doing this without being engaged. I told her to back off, that I know what I was doing. What I didn’t know, is that Mac was telling her to back off, because he was planning to propose.

Mac and I usually commuted together to work. On a particular day, we didn’t, so I got home after him. I walked in and immediately he was asking “Are you hungry?” At the same time I noticed there was a picnic set up and lit candles everywhere. “Not really,” I said, “but I will eat since you made the effort.”

We finished dinner and Mac exclaimed, “I have a gift for you!” I had no idea why he was giving me a gift; it wasn’t a special occasion. I unwrapped it, and it was an Easy-Bake Oven! Clueless that this was anything more than just an awesome gift, I said “I’m not hungry!” when he asked if I wanted to try a cake. He was getting a bit agitated at that point, so I acquiesced and agreed to bake one to eat later. As I opened the box, he was in my face, like a little kid watching his friend open a birthday gift: “Do you want help pulling it out of the box?” Even as I wondered what was wrong with him, I let him help. As he pulled out the oven, I noticed a ring box.

Yes you guessed it, my engagement ring was hidden in the Easy-Bake Oven box. Best. Gifts. Ever. ——-

I kept that oven for years, until I became friends with a grandfather who was helping his single son raise his granddaughter on a limited income...

It’s Ok To Laugh

By Alexandra Jefferson

The best gift I’ve ever received is a cookbook my mom made for me shortly after I graduated from high school.  She took a 5x7 photo album and added a favorite recipe she’d handwritten on one side of each page and a photo of my awkward years in all their glory on the other.  I remember being slightly offended when I first opened the gift thinking, are these really the best photos she could find?  But even then, I appreciated having my favorite recipes penned in her distinctive script.

For years, I’d pull the book off my shelf, hidden where visitors to my college dorm and post-college apartments couldn’t accidentally stumble upon it, and cook.  Dutch babies, cantaloupe soup, PopPop’s thanksgiving filling, mom’s bloody mary gazpacho, pumpkin cheesecake with a graham cracker crust.  The tastes of my childhood, accompanied by pictures of me with the relatives they came from, and enough awkwardness to ensure I stay humble forever.  The recipes always taste best when my mom makes them, but that doesn’t stop me from using my cookbook all the time.  These days, I’m less likely to hide the book, which has turned into two books since she gifts me a new page or two every Christmas.  In fact, if you’re ever in my house, you’ll probably see one or both of the books lying open on my kitchen counter…and don’t worry, it’s ok to laugh.

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