We had already been discussing how hard it was to come up with anything to put on our wish lists, as we had seemed to come to a place where there were no real wants. I did not want a stereo, a garlic press, a pair of new shoes. Had no interest in conjuring trinkets, was not armed with store ads, circled objects, lists of wants. Which was rather a nice place to be. So it was that we found ourselves at Christmas time, anything we ever put on our wish lists had already appeared, either in the form of a gift, a trade or a fantastic find on the side of the road. So what could we ask for?

Aside from some sweet surprises, my husband and I decided to remind each other of our best gifts, things we couldn’t buy and wrap up, even if we were the richest people around.

We wrote down all the wonderful stuff we already had:

Amazing, funny and unquestionably supportive friends.
Great kids who are healthy and intelligent, spunky and sweet.
A great affection for home cooked food, made with love and a lot of garlic.
Lucid dreams.
A deep well of creative inspiration.
Erotic moments.
A never-ending flood of books.
Belly laughs.
A fantastic public library.
Memories of our early romance, the butterflies, the breathlessness, the way we never left the bed unless we had to.
Family that we made to fulfill that great need, instead of just grudgingly tolerating the families we were stuck with.
A deep and clear spiritual connection to the universal subconscious mind.
Kneeling in the soil, a cat brushing against the leg, the smell of nine varieties of basil, tomatoes, a lavender hedge that bloomed delightfully for months.
The chrome shine of a clean kitchen, the pine scent of a shiny floor, the warmth of sheets and flannel jammie pants.
Soft lips, toothless grins on strange children, old ladies who pat your arm and tell you they love babies.
The sweet release of weeping.
Spinning fast, goofy dancing.
That bluff we climbed to the top of the world, where we were forced to stay still or get dizzy until we adjusted to this new perspective.
The fact that we are ALIVE.

Then we cut the paper so each gift stood alone, rolled the long strips and slipped them into tiny boxes I made out of old Christmas cards. We stuffed them into each other’s socks. We slipped them into clever places afterward, so we could be reminded again and again. And Sony was not invited. And The Pottery Barn had nothing to do with it. And Land’s End was not there at all. Instead we were sitting by the Christmas tree, sated by great food, with a few surprise gifts, which were wonderful, but nothing compared to the intangible things we already had. Feeling really blessed and happy, grateful for experiences and emotions and the lives we have led.

We are doing it again this year. It is a new family tradition. I encourage you to do this too. To tell the people in your life that you are thinking about them, that you love them. That you have witnessed and appreciated their unique talents. That your life is better for having them in it. These are gifts also. They are nondenominational. They are universal. They are precious and they are understated, often forgotten. But these are the most crucial as they shield us from life’s worst blows. Imagine that kind of power on wee slips of paper.

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