Doyle-Schechtman: The Gift
12/24/10 5:55PM By Deborah Doyle-Schechtman  Download MP3
(HOST) Commentator Deborah Doyle-Schechtman has been thinking about the true meaning of giving.
(DOYLE-SCHECHTMAN) When I was growing up, holidays were always cause for celebration, yet none shone brighter than Christmas.
Yuletide festivities in the Doyle household began on Christmas Eve. After dinner the fourteen of us would congregate in the living room to exchange gifts amongst ourselves, as Christmas morning was strictly reserved for Santa Claus.
The steadfast rule was that each present had to be opened before another could be given, and that meant sitting through the presentation of 144 gifts just between us kids, followed by whatever we each gave to our parents, and finally the exchange between mom and dad.
The logistics of spreading Christmas cheer took hours. And sometimes it was painful.
Like the year the word went out that one of my sisters had money, and lots of it. Her baby-sitting loot was sure to mean that we'd score big time with her presents.
We all dutifully gathered around the Christmas tree eagerly awaiting what we considered to be our just rewards. When her turn came to give us her gifts we squealed with delight, and even though no one said a word, it was obvious by the expressions on our faces that we had great expectations.
To say that my spirits were dashed when she pulled an Archie Comic Book out of a plain brown bag and handed it to me with a sheepish "Merry Christmas Deb," is an understatement. When she laughingly produced a 10 cent rabbit's foot for the next in line, my blood began to boil. "What a cheapskate," I mumbled.
What irked me the most was that she evidently thought this such a great joke that her eyes were watering and her cheeks were redder than the glass baubles on the tree.
The only emotion to match the height of her apparent glee was the depth of our collective disgust. We were all feeling gypped.
The air was thicker than eggnog as she left the room a short time later. No one spoke. No one moved. But when she returned almost immediately carrying a huge box, our self-righteousness instantly turned to self-loathing.
You see, my parents had a high-fi that was, for all intents and purposes, off limits to the rest of us. My sister had balanced the scales by buying a stereo for the kids to enjoy.
We also learned, adding insult to injury, that her tears were very real. She had been devastated by our glares, not amused by them. Yet she persevered.
My sister gave us a lot more than something to spin our records on all those decades ago. She gave us a glimpse of how greedy and self-absorbed we'd been, and she forgave us. Her generosity of spirit personified the true meaning of giving.
Not a year goes by that I don't think of that Christmas. It reminds me that the best gifts are often those least expected. The ones wrapped in love, not paper.
May we all enjoy the many blessings of this holiday season, whatever our reason for celebration.