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The Best Gift of All

The Best Gift of All ...From the pages of South Jersey Magazine...

This year I applauded the fact that many retailers stayed closed on Thanksgiving so their employees could celebrate the holiday with their families. While I realize stores rake in plenty of sales on that day as people try to get the best deals to kick off the holiday shopping season, I believe there is more value in the gift of time with loved ones. As I think of this upcoming Christmas, it stands out to me as very dif- ferent from the rest when it comes to our kids. It has to do with fleeting minutes, moments and years; something retailers can’t sell us.

At 13 and nearly 11, our kids have finally outgrown making their lists just for Santa Claus since I have explained that the jolly old elf takes care of the younger children on his “naughty or nice” list and Mom and Dad take care of them. It’s been a long time since we sat them on Santa’s lap or tried to coax them at least close enough to snap a picture. I don’t miss sweating horribly as we tried to get them to stay in place and smile while someone jingled bells in the air and yelled “Look over here!”

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I do miss their lists that we used to put in our mailbox addressed to Santa at the North Pole. The crooked, determined words, some spelled just as they sounded with some letters written backwards in their childhood scrawl. Their wishes for a uni- corn, pixie dust, Legos, a dog, hamster or guinea pig among other innocent things. Sometimes when they thought they were really “good” they wondered why no hamster or guinea pig. Santa always had his reasons.

As our kids have grown older, it’s been fun to see them get excited about making gifts for family members and not just receiving gifts from them. A friend showed us how to make fleece blankets with two different colors or designs of fleece material, about two yards of each. By making cuts in the edges of the fabric, one laid on of top of the other on the floor, we’d have ties to knot the two pieces of fleece together. When all four sides are tied we ended up with a gift to give someone from loving hearts and hands. If that sounds too corny, let me tell you how good it feels to see our kids cherish the ones Tom and I made for them last year.

Captured memories are another of my favorite gifts. One year for Christmas my brother-in-law gave us a blown up photo on canvas of our children and his at a midsummer Arizona Diamondbacks game. The team’s mascot had its arms around the smiling kids. Every time our kids see the picture they remember the great time they had with their cousins at the game and on the vacation they spent together.

A great photo of the cousins on Brigantine Beach from this past July will be blown up on canvas so that we can reciprocate the gesture this year. I will do an iron-on of that same picture on a throw pillow for their grandmother.

We are happy the Sixers schedule will allow us to spend Christmas with Tom’s family this year. We don’t see them for the holidays as often as we do mine, who live closer. The other day I heard our daughter mention she is already looking forward to being with her cousins and enjoying her aunt’s special Christmas dinner that will include her favorite: Brussels sprouts and bacon. It’s funny, we only spent one Christmas there years ago and what stands out to her is not a toy or game she got but the time spent and enjoyed with family.

I’m sure both of our kids will love the Christmas gifts they get from me and Tom this year, some bought, some made. But I think the most important one for them will be the “presence” not “presents” of people they love. It really is the gift money can’t buy.

Robin Rieger is a former anchor and reporter with CBS 3. A lifelong South Jersey resident, she lives with her husband, Philadelphia 76ers Radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom McGinnis, and their two children in Burlington County.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December, 2016).
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Author: Robin Rieger

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