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Well, I had a nice Christmas

Beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts.

I love wrapping presents. Last year I read that printed wrapping paper is not recyclable so I bought some festive looking fabric and used that--it's hard to make it look tidy but after Christmas I can fold it up and use it again next year. and it's not going into the landfill.

It was a little embarrassing because I received more presents than anyone else; everybody had opened all their gifts and I still had a pile to go. What's my secret? I make specific requests. I asked Jessie for new pot holders--in red, please-- and I got these gorgeous oven mitts. And I said I wished I had someplace to lay down my spoon and Look at this elegant spoon holder!

red oven mitts and green spoon dish

I also said, "If you're still looking for me, I really need two more camels for my duck nativity."

She said, "Really ,Mom? You need them?" Yes, how do you think the three Kings got to Bethlehem? Jessie came through with this handsome fellow. Doesn't he have a nice face?

I still need a third but waiting for things makes them special.

toy camel

Now that I look at him I see that I'll have to make a fancy little saddle with all those tassels you see in the pictures. That'll keep me busy.

This year Jessie told me the story of this turkey shaped casserole that she gave me a few years ago. I absolutely love it and it's perfect in my kitchen. Jessie told me this year that she found it sitting on a stoop in Brooklyn. "I went back and forth three times, deciding if I should take it or not," she said. "I did give it a really good wash." Now that I know we've given it a new life I love it even more!

Aside from spreading joy this year Jessie proved that revenge is a dish served best cold. Here's the story.

When she was in Middle School, all the kids wore very cool varsity type jackets with leather sleeves, the school name on the back and their own names embroidered on the front. One afternoon I was ready to go home and she had left her jacket in the music room so I told her to go get it. She refused. We went back and forth in one of those head-to-head and toe-to-toe mother-daughter face-offs that can never come to any good. She did not retrieve her jacket. Did she go home cold? I don't remember but I retrieved it the next day. A teacher friend, hearing my complaint said, "Don't give it back to her right away. In fact, wrap it up and give it to her for Christmas. This was in mid- November.

On Christmas morning at my parents' house she opened the big box she'd been saving to open last and there was her jacket. My brother Rob said, "What's going on? You gave her that terrific jacket and she gave you a really dirty look." I looked at him holding his baby daughter and decided not to tell him what he had to look forward to.

Remember how at Jessie's Thanksgiving dinner I showed up wearing my apron, ready to get to work? Well, I left it there and asked her to bring it back when she got the chance. And she did, beautifully wrapped and under the tree. I wish I had a picture of her face when I realized what she'd done, thirty-two years later.

Here we are at the table with another gift --Lee gave me a set of flavored olive oils and we had a tasting. You can see that everyone joined in.

I gave presents too, and tried to make them perfect. I like it when you stumble upon what you know is a perfect fit so I keep my eyes open all year and keep my beloveds in mind.

Santa or the World Wildlife Fund always sends the kids a stuffed animal and a certificate saying that they are this animal's caregivers. The year Theo, then Teddy, received a tiger he was beside himself with joy until we had to tell him that the tiger was not actually coming to live with him. At twelve and ten they don't seem to be outgrowing the tradition so Molly got two baby flamingoes, Theo a blue whale and Sunny a red panda. Sunny's two so she has some catching up to do in building her menagerie.

The world is a scary mess and we're heading into a year that may be even scarier so I'm seeking ways to feel optimistic as I also seek ways to work for good. I know you're doing the same.

This afternoon I'm taking Theo to the Museum of Natural History. I gave him the choice of the Planetarium or a giant screen film titled "Blue Whale; Return of the Giants"  and he chose the whales. I was hoping he'd say that. The Return of the Giants sounds pretty optimistic.

I'll leave you with a poem...

What if you felt the invisible

tug between you and everything?...

It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much

and too little. Does the breeze need us?

The cliffs? The gulls?

If you’ve managed to do one good thing,

the ocean doesn’t care.

But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,

the earth, ever so slightly, fell

toward the apple as well.

Ellen Bass, b. 1947

and some blue jays.

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