It was May of 1990. Eric and I had just met in March, and it was my twentieth birthday. We were living in Los Angeles. He came to my apartment carrying a present. I opened it. He bought me a coffee maker.  I was surprised. My new boyfriend didn’t get me a necklace or earrings. He got me a kitchen appliance. In only a few weeks of dating, he had already learned the important role coffee played in my life. Of course, I thanked him, but in my mind I was wondering if things were going to work out between us. I mean, a coffee maker? Even back then the budding feminist in me (who has grown enormously over the years) did not appreciate a man getting a woman something for the kitchen. Then every morning as I brewed my coffee before work I thought of him. Twenty-five years later that coffee maker holds a special place in my memory. And now he’s the one who does all the buying of our kitchen appliances and handles most of the cooking. I couldn’t care less. So, it was actually a great beginning to our relationship.

Because of the season, I’ve been thinking a lot about gift giving. When the kids were little Eric and I would schedule a date night, and go on a shopping spree to pick out their Christmas presents. It was wonderful fun because it was time alone which back then was rare and because the anticipation of seeing our children’s excitement upon opening their gifts was magical.

As time passed, our trips to the toy store turned into trips to GameStop. Clothing gift cards were preferred over the two of us trying to pick out the right outfits. Gift giving became a lot more difficult. I wondered what happened to those years when we’d put out cookies and milk for Santa, read The Night Before Christmas, and then wait until our children were asleep to place all the presents under the tree. Hours later, before dawn, two excited small voices would wake us.  Those days were gone.  Now,  Eric and I are the first ones up. Christmas can be a reminder of what used to be.

I’ve learned that the key to enjoying the holidays is to adapt to change. Create new traditions. Remember and be grateful for the past, but don’t try to relive it. Accept what is. And as far as gift giving I’ve discovered that the gifts that are given from the heart, much like Eric’s coffee maker are the gifts that matter most. What lives on, even beyond the present, is the spirit in which it was given. It’s not about what’s inside the wrapped box; it’s about the love that surrounds it.

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