A Present I'll Never Forget

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I read that retailers don’t predict good sales numbers for this Christmas shopping season. The claim is that people don’t have much money due to the poor economy, rising living expenses, and especially high gasoline prices. I heard a reporter on TV say that “Because parents don’t have much money, perhaps this Christmas won’t be so merry for many children.”

That’s a pretty sorry statement actually. I think that not having the money to buy presents is not necessarily a bad thing.

I really think that lots of us have “lost our way” when it comes to giving gifts. And I’m not just talking about Christmas either. It doesn’t matter if it’s a birthday, Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or whatever the occasion is: I think many people have confused spending money with gift giving.

If you are a parent who is wishing right now that you could have afforded a certain present for your child or you are worried that your children will be disappointed this Christmas, I want to tell you about the best present I ever received: It was a present from my mom.

I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was a young boy, my family was poor. My father was a sergeant in the marines, so you know he didn’t make much money. My mother raised three sons and kept home all the while picking up sewing jobs whenever she could. She didn’t come from a wealthy family and even if she had, it wouldn’t have mattered: Her family in Japan disowned her for marrying an American. They couldn’t believe that she would marry someone from a country that had so mercilessly bombed their homes. Some of my mother’s relatives didn’t speak to my mom again for almost 35 years.

Even so, those were the happiest days of my life. My mother taught us many ways to make do without money. I remember that at Valentines Day, we didn’t have the money to buy Valentines cards, like the other kids — we had to make our own. We didn’t even have the money to buy white glue to construct the cards with. What did we use instead of glue? Cooked rice. One grain of cooked rice makes a great paste that sticks when hard. Of course we didn’t waste paper and always made do with used paper. At the time, I wasn’t too happy about it. But those were the best times: making things with my mom. She taught me much about creativity and “making do."

Even though my folks were not wealthy, my mother worked out the house-hold budget so that they were able to buy three homes by the time I was 13 years old. I don’t know how she did it. But she did. I guess some people are just talented with money.

But back to the best present I ever got. It was a corduroy wallet my mother hand-made for me. At first I wasn’t happy with it. I wanted a toy from the store. But when I looked into my mother’s eyes, I saw all the love she had for me. I saw all the love she put into making that wallet. You can tell by the design and fine workmanship, just how much love went into making it. I will never forget that look in her eyes: She had so hoped that I would approve of the present she made. And I did. I still do.

I loved that wallet so much, that I have kept it for probably 45 years now.

I learned an important lesson in life from that day and the wallet I received. Now, whenever it is a gift-giving occasion, I tell my children that I want nothing from the store. If they are going to give me something, I would love for them to make something by hand or to cook for me.

Make something for me and let’s spend time together — a hug and an “I love you” will make the best present — the best memory — anyone could ever hope for.

We all should never forget that. I never will. And I’ll bet your children wouldn’t either.

It is never too late to give a truly unforgettable present.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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