Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Christmas Gift Jar

Christmas doesn't normally get many traditions at my parents house. There just doesn't seem like there is enough time between the cooking, gift unwrapping, cleaning up, games and munching on the nearest treat. But I really wanted something for us. After thanksgiving I asked everyone on Facebook what their family traditions were and I was intrigued with one from a friend named Kelli.

Her family had a jar that they gave to each person and put what they were thankful for about that individual. I loved it. I loved it so much that I decided to twist it a little bit and make it for Christmas.

As the Christmas holiday approached I thought about it often and one night I laid in bed and decided to write a story about this tradition.

I asked my Dad to read the story (found below) to the family on Christmas Eve. We all sat around and listened and afterwards I pulled out a jar for each family member. We found a home for them on the shelf downstairs and throughout the day we placed the strips of paper in the jars. It was wonderful. I can't wait to do it every year.
The following is the story that goes along with our new Christmas tradition. It will better explain.

{Please note that this is my own simple story and although I would love it if you enjoyed it enough to share it with your own family, I ask that you do not alter it and please remember to refer to my page when mentioning it.}

The Christmas Gift Jar

Christmas had finally arrived! And unlike the past couple of years, it was snowing heavily outside. Not the bitter cold, side blowing snow that bites your nose and leaves you retreating inside after minutes, but the good stuff, the snow that falls slowly, tempting children away from their new dolls and trains and sweet chocolates. The streets were void of vans, trucks and cars but the sidewalks and yards were humming with the sound of children. Snowballs were catapulted back and forth to one child to the other and the smaller children, looking to hide from the snow ball wars were working on the torso of what would be their best snow man ever. Parents were watching from their porches with cups of cocoa as they watched their children covering themselves in wet snow. Ah yes, Christmas was a time to celebrate.

Christmas was always different for Emily though. The hustle and bustle that she heard echoed over the radio was something she knew little about. Grandma Kay didn’t make a big fuss over Christmas and she most definitely did not like seeing children outside. “You’ll catch a cold in this kind of weather.”Mountains of gifts were obsolete; however a simple outfit was always wrapped under the meager tree for her. Emily wouldn’t tear it open fiercely but instead savored the moment. Her small finger running under the slit of paper, separating the tape from the paper slowly and methodically would produce the same plaid red and green shirt box that was always stored in the back closet, hidden for the majority of the year. She would fold the silver wrapping paper and place it beside her where Grandma would eventually pick it up and toss it in the trash. Afterwards she lowered her aging body and kissed Emily on the forward. “I noticed you eyeing that pink and grey dress at the corner store a couple weeks back, so I notified the big man at The North Pole.” Although Emily was aware that her Grandma was employed by Santa to wrap up her gift, she wondered how Santa slipped the dress to her unbeknownst to Emily.  Santa was so magical.

Placing her prized new dress in her closet, Emily saw her glass jar hidden behind her caboodle filled with nearly dried up polish. She grabbed the jar slowly and walked over to quietly close her bedroom door. It was decorated with candy cane stickers and ribbon and her name was proudly written across the front. Most of the stickers were curled at the edges from excessive handling. On the floor with her legs crossed she pried open the lid and begin to read each strip of paper. Although she knew what each paper said, for she had read them numerous times, she still read each word slowly as if they would produce something she hadn’t caught before.

“Emily, you are a gift to me because your smile brightens any room you walk in and I will love you forever for it.” 

“Emily dearest, you are a precious gift to me because you always share your blanket with me when we read together on the couch. I know my lap will never be cold if you are around. You share with everyone and I hope you always remember how important that is.” 

“emily you give me all bloo creyons when we color it is my favrit color”

“Emily, you are a gift to me because you are always the first one to greet me at the door when I get home. I always feel so loved when you are around.” 

Emily read the last pieces of paper before being called by Grandma Kay to join her in the kitchen table for Christmas lunch, which consisted of her favorite sandwich, egg salad with half a pickle. With egg in the corner of her mouth, Emily cleared her throat and said, “Gramma, will you help me make gift jars for the kids at school?” Grandma Kay lowered her glass of milk, picked up her plate and slowly walked to the kitchen sink. “Emily, it is too late. Christmas is today. School doesn’t start up until January, and besides the only jar we have is this pickle jar. Go ahead and eat the last pickle and I’ll rinse it out and you can use it on someone you think is extra deserving though.” 

 Grandma Kay began to clear the table as Emily went to her room to gather supplies to decorate her pickle jar. The arthritis in her hands were getting worse and as she lowered the remaining 2 glasses into the sink, Kay thought of the last time she saw the jars on her mantle, lined up in a row for everyone to see. She smiled as she thought of her precious grandson Kelvin, who would periodically reach into his jar and would say, “Gramma, what’s this say?” The tradition of placing the jars on the mantle for others to place strips of paper with reasons they found that person a gift, was one of Kay’s favorite memories from her childhood and she found so much joy continuing it with her own children and grandchildren.

Kelvin died a few years earlier along with his Mother and Father while they were on their way to pick up Emily from a sleepover during a winter storm. The car hit a patch of ice and the car spun out of control, off the road and in an embankment. Carol and Kelvin died immediately and Jason died 2 days later on December 24, after complications arose during surgery. Kay was devastated. 

Kay felt a stab of pain every time she hung up laundry and got a glimpse of Emily’s jar in her closet.  Over the past years she didn’t have the strength to see only two jars on her mantle signifying the loss of her daughter, son in law and grandson so instead she threw away her own jar and ignored the hints from her granddaughter to continue the tradition when the Christmas season came around. It was just too hard.

With the dishes cleaned, dried and placed back in the cupboards, Kay walked down the hall to see if Emily needed any help searching for the ribbon. She instead found Emily on her bed writing in her sketch pad and not wanting to press the issue of the jar; she quietly returned down the hall and decided to continue reading a book she hadn’t had time to finish. With the blanket Emily had made last year, wrapped around her lap, and the tune of laughter from the children outdoors, she soon found herself unable to read another sentence, and instead fell fast asleep. 

“Gramma, you fell asleep. I want to show you something.” Kay opened her eyes to see Emily standing in front of her. She had such a contagious smile. And although most kids her age were starting to get braces, Emily was lucky enough to have perfectly aligned teeth and her smile seemed to cover the majority of her freckle ridden face. “What is it my dear?” 

Emily took two steps to her left and there on the mantle was the single pickle jar decorated simply with a picture glued to the jar. The faces of her family smiled back at her. Carol was holding Kelvin as he tried to squirm out of her arms and Emily was holding the hand of her Daddy, and her other hand was holding Kays. They all stood in front of the fresh pine tree they would eventually cut down for the season. It was one of her favorite pictures. 

“Gramma, I wanted you to have the gift jar this year.” Tears fell down her cheek as she held the jar in her weathered hands. The memories of sneaking around the house and placing papers in jars while the recipient of the jar wasn’t looking flooded back into her mind. She truly wished she could go back a few years. She wiped her nose and cheeks with a tissue she had on reserve in her pocket and pulled out the first strip of paper. She read each out loudly to Emily.
“Gramma, you are a gift to me because you let me paint my room yellow.” 

Kay giggled as she thought of all the wash cloths she crocheted and sold at craft boutiques to get the extra money to buy paint and brushes for her grand-daughter’s bedroom. “Gramma, girls aren’t supposed to have olive green walls.” Kay finally agreed. It really did brighten up the walls and Emily thanked her for weeks every time she entered her room.

“Gramma, you are a gift to me because you read the funnies with me on Sunday.”

“Gramma, you are a gift to me because you know what dress I love so you can tell Santa.”

“Gramma, you are a gift to me because you kiss me on the forehead at night, even when I am pretending to be asleep.”

“Gramma, you are a gift to me because you don’t want me to get sick outside.”

“Gramma, you are a gift to me because you love me.” 

Each strip of paper brought more tears to her face and soon they were both crying on the couch together as she read each one. She got to the bottom of the pickle jar and she picked up a final strip of paper. She held it at eye level and realized that it was blank. It must have fallen in on accident. She lifted the blanket from off her lap, walked to the kitchen and grabbed a pencil from the junk drawer, wrote a sentence on the strip of paper and returned to the living room where Emily was sitting on the couch, cuddled under the blanket. She kissed Emily on the forehead and placing the strip of paper in her grand-daughter’s hand she said, “Emily, you are a gift to me because you brought the spirit of Christmas back into this house. You are my greatest gift.”

May we always remember our dearest gifts this holiday season.

                                                                                                                     December 2012-Lindsey Lyman

Please let me know what you think about our new tradition. I would also love to hear your own Christmas traditions.

{If you are interested, for a small fee I would love to make you some jars and print out the story for you} 


Kelsey Fairbanks said...

that is super cute! i love the idea!

Kelli Shimek said...

I thought I commented on this... I guess I didn't. :) I love that you liked this idea and that you used it. I also love the story. Great work!