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Litterski: The real art of giving

Dec. 23, 2017 at 4 a.m.

I almost did not get this story written for I went online to see how to spell frankincense and myrrh, and became involved in several stories about the visit of the Three Wise Men and their gifts to the Baby Jesus. It was fascinating reading with a good measure of response from others who had found the same stories. Did you know that frankincense is used to alleviate arthritis?

I have been wondering about these gifts and how Mary felt about them. They are thought to be prophetic, but they certainly were not practical. Do you suppose Mary might have wondered just how in the world she could use them? The gold would come in handy, but as to the others, I think she probably would have preferred a one-year diaper service or maybe some clothing besides the swaddling cloths. Also, because the gifts were brought from the Far East, there was no way she could get them back to the department store to exchange them for a baby crib or carriage. I guess there was no registering your new babe at Target in those days.

Which brings me to the subject of gift giving at Christmas. Did the practice of giving gifts really start with the Magi or was it with the Sears catalog? To children of my era, in the days of the Great Depression, the Sears catalog was the most important source of dreams. We would cut out the pictures of the toys we wanted and paste them in our tablets. Even though we knew there was no chance of receiving these wonderful toys, we still could sneak a look at them during Civics class and wish, wish, wish.

In my 86 Christmases, I have received many, many gifts but I admit, loving mother that I am, my favorites are all those my five sons have given me. I have them still unless they fell apart in our many moves or were left behind in an abandoned attic. I have ornaments made in Cub Scouts from egg cartons and oleo containers, candle holders molded in art class at school, vases bought at the dime store (remember dime stores?), a romping lamb (I think) welded in shop class, gifts from the Marine when he was overseas, books from the book lovers, bookends, sweaters from 30 years back, Willie Nelson CDs, a bracelet linked with icons of banned books, and now in my old age, an electric blanket. They are all here, some on display, hanging on the walls, others dusty in a closet, some only out of the Christmas boxes once a year.

I have also received many unusual gifts over the years. A long time ago Dan and I gave each other a gift that keeps on giving. We hooked up to the city sewer, a necessary expense, which we had entered on our Christmas wish list. I have received homemade gifts to wear and, best of all, homemade gifts to eat, especially Margie's apple bread. One winter when my boys were small and we had an endless rotation of measles and chicken pox, my mother-in-law came to stay for a long weekend and pushed Dan and me out of the house. A gift of time.

It's the story of Christmas, giving and receiving. I know that marketing has undermined the spirit, what with Black Friday and Red Monday, but we can ignore that. Just today three people opened doors for me as I made my way on my trusty walker into the post office, the drug store and grocery. A gift of care. A man parked beside me at the post office came over to tighten the hub cap on my back wheel. A gift of concern. Last week a friend came to visit. A gift of joy. Tonight three of my sons phoned. Gifts of love.

I don't know what Mary and Joseph did with those very unusual gifts, but I am sure they didn't stand in line to return them to Walmart after the holidays.

— More than 20 years ago, Lorraine Litterski (the mother and mentor of former News-Journal editor Pete Litterski), decided that instead of the traditional holiday newsletter, she would compose a holiday story based on her memories of Christmases past. This is the story she sent with her 2016 cards.



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