Fifty one years ago, Bill and I celebrated our first Christmas together. We were married in November and I started shopping for his gifts in December.
Every time I’d buy something, I’d get so excited I couldn’t wait until Christmas. So within 24 hours of getting the gift home, I gave into my excitement and the gift was opened. Then I’d get something else and the entire scenario would repeat itself. By Christmas there was nothing left to give.
As much fun as that was at the time, it wasn’t too many years after that that we gave up giving gifts on conventional holidays like Christmas and birthdays, etc. where gifts are usually expected. We found that extremely freeing.
When we could or wanted to give each other something, we did. And although our surprise gifts to each other were few and far between over 51 years, they were lots of fun and very memorable.
The Most Important Gifts Can Be Intangible
The most important gifts I received from Bill were intangible.
Valentine’s Day for example was never very important to me and I never got one valentine’s day gift from Bill. And I never gave him one. I didn’t require anything on that day to know that he loved me unconditionally and above all else. I already knew that everyday of the year.
Purchased gifts may be easier to give, but the intangible gifts that Bill gave are all that are truly required to make any spouse feel loved. They’re the same gifts that we can give our children to make them “feel” loved unconditionally and help them grow into well-balanced independent adults.
Focused Attention Heads the List
As simple as it sounds focused attention heads the list of the most important gifts you can give your spouse or your children.
I never remember a time that Bill was ever too busy or preoccupied to talk to me if I needed him. I tried to be considerate about my timing, but even when I was not as considerate as I should’ve been, he always stopped and gave me the focused attention I required. Even when he was painting (and I should never have interrupted him!) he’d always stop and pay attention to what I wanted. I never remember him acting irritated or annoyed.
There will always be opportunities to show our spouse or our children how important they are to us, by stopping what we’re doing and addressing their concerns. If the situation is such that it’s impossible to stop, then we need to get back to them as soon as we can.
Being Able to Express Feelings
One of the things that I feel made our marriage possible was being able to express my feelings to Bill. If ever he did something that made me angry or hurt my feelings, I could always tell him honestly how I felt. That way, those feelings never built up to cause problems.
The same thing can make a big difference in a parent/child relationship as well as in a marriage. If kids can express how they really feel without having their parent(s) over react emotionally (in anger, or with ridicule, disapproval, or rejection), it’ll go a long way towards keeping lines of communication open.
Time and Commitment
As much as I hate to admit it, I was a young person who went into marriage with the attitude “if doesn’t work we can divorce”. (Fortunately, I changed over the years.)
Bill was committed to our marriage since the first day. He was always willing to do everything he could to make it work.
Often when something would come up in the news about marriage situations in the world today, I would say to Bill, “How does anyone stay married today!?” His reply was, “They have to want to stay married.”
A good marriage as well as good parenting take time and commitment.
It’s easy to get caught up in the gift giving tradition especially when it’s fun. And only you can decide what’s important in your life.
But I think we can all agree that the intangible gifts are some of the most important we can give or receive.
Wishing you an abundance of both!
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You’re so right, Theresa. We gave up gift giving at Christmas several years ago, and it is very freeing. My sister and brother and their families will come for Christmas dinner and we will eat, play games, and just enjoy being together. It felt odd at first, but now it feels just right and takes a lot of hassle and stress out of the holidays.
Thank you for sharing your lovely memories with all of us. Consideration, kindness and commitment to purpose are hard to remember and achieve in a relationship. Bill was an exceptional man and I’m sure he chose an exceptional mate. Nothing is achieved without thought, planning and work. You two grew together. As you said, these are the greatest gifts. May you have a blessed Christmas. I love your articles.
So well expressed. Thank you. May you find joy and peace this Christmas.
I agree with you 100%.
It is so important, and so refreshing that you did this when Bill was still with you. I know he will always be with you, but not physically.
Isn’t it nice to have happy memories.
To anyone reading this. Now is the time to do this.
Thank you, Thank you, Theresa AND Bill: This message is so timely, as I will have to free myself of all the devil’s temptations to make me unhappy. We, too, are married 50 yrs. this year, and can understand your plight of health issues, etc. Our age is against us, but our spirits will remain unbroken!! Merry Christmas to you and Bill. Dale and I hope and pray your New Year will hold many new blessings from Above!!
In today’s materialistic world where most things are disposable, people want instant gratification and the true value is often misunderstood, your post is a very good reminder!
What a lovely reminder of the true gifts we should be giving. Those are my sentiments exactly! When I was a little girl, very young, my brother and I tried to make breakfast in bed for our mom on Mother’s Day. She refused to allow it, which hurt my feelings briefly, but she said we could not treat her ‘special’ on Mother’s Day, we had to show our love and respect for her on a daily basis. (A wise woman. . .) Indeed, I came to realize that often gift-giving on special days is more about the gift givers feeling good about themselves than truly honoring the honoree. It’s a discipline to practice attentive listening, as well as kind and thoughtful behavior on a regular basis – but well worth the investment. Letting Love shine in action! A joyous holiday to all.
MERRY CHRISTMAS Theresa. What wonderful reminders.
Theresa, It’s not easy. There are times when it would be easier to say I quit but we don’t. Thanks for the reminder. Hope you have a peaceful Christmas.
Danita, You got that right!
Theresa, I think the love of Christ has to underlie all our efforts and provide the impetus to spend oneself on another. Much easier to just run to the store and buy something, but the gifts you describe here require so much more from the giver. This is a great post, and perhaps I can reset from all the busy work of Christmas and refocus in a better way on the intangibles. Very timely.
Peace and rest to you Theresa.
Thank you for sharing pearls of wisdom gleaned from your years of honest living! Perhaps it is time for you to write another kind of book?
This brought a tear. It’s so true. Thank you. Blessings to you Theresa.
“I’ll look back on this and smile
because it was life,
and I decided to live it…”
Theresa, this reminds me of you!
You have never settled on the quality of your life.
You are all in!
Clarification Added at 2:24PM 12/25/15
I meant to say that you have always pushed yourself to live better today than you did yesterday…making each day better than the previous day by learning more, living more fully, understanding your purpose a bit better every day.
Thank you, Theresa. Hope you have a peace-filled Christmas and a blessing filled new year.
You and Bill have been inspirational. Hearts and minds together.