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Memory-making Christmas gifts: Readers relay unique, memorable presents

Christmas Memories

“Something that I had waited 30 years to have. It’s an elephant headpiece from Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey.”

Credit: Lara Heidtman Smith
“Something that I had waited 30 years to have. It’s an elephant headpiece from Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey.”

Remember the magic of Christmas and the anticipation, from the planning of outdoor events and cookie making to family visits and church services?

Do you also remember the most unique gift you ever received? Or the most memorable?

I recall my mom wrapping cans of olives for my oldest daughter, Avery. This was somethings she also did for my older brother. Steve, in years past. One of those quirky, slightly embarrassing things when you’re young that you come to miss when the giver isn’t there any longer.

One of my most unique gifts was the bobble-head turtle made from seashells that Hailey purchased at the senior center kids Christmas sale. I literally hid it from her three times and, at age 3, she continued to find it and insist on purchasing it. She did. And it makes me laugh now.

As far as memorable, in 2009, my mom had a package for me and I was sure I knew what it was by the size and weight of it. I was excited. Until I opened it. It was not what I thought. It was an old pig cookie jar. It’s great, but not what I thought it was. I told my mom what I thought it was and that was that. The following Christmas, I got the real McCoy. A mechanical Santa bank that my dad brought back from Vietnam in 1968. It has the original, beat-up box and I’m sure it isn’t worth much monetarily, but I love it, specially now that both my parents are in heaven.


Kelly Arnzen Shehee

“...the year my mom packaged and shipped my great-grandma Bailey’s buffet all the way to me in South Carolina!”

Some friends on Facebook relayed some of their most unique or memorable gifts. Enjoy the read:


• Jody Colegrove: My first Harley, I didn’t even know how to ride yet.

• Jaynelle Sage-Norman: My very own jar of home-canned pickles from my grandmother when I was about 10 years old. I was truly grateful for them. We lost her a few years ago, and I sure do wish she was here with us for the holidays.

• Amy Sue Aiken-Farris: I had just gotten my driver’s license and I wanted a car really bad. On Christmas morning I opened my stocking and there was a driver’s manual and inside the front cover was a key taped down. I got so excited I ran outside to find a Hot Wheels car on the sidewalk with a bow on top.

• Cherie DeJarnett Williams: I got a kitten from a co-worker. I had her for more than 14 years. At the time I thought it was a pretty gutsy gift, and will always remember the joy it gave me. It was a gift that kept on giving.

• Rachel Docherty Young: My grandparents owned a cafe and gift shop on the American side of the Canadian border. When I was 10, we all received a lot of snow, so they apparently didn’t come to Bonners Ferry to buy gifts — just one trip to drop them off. I received a 10-inch gummi rat wrapped from their gift shop! It was creepy, but I ate it!

• Reyna Phillips: My mom wanted me to change my last name to my husband’s, so as a gift to her since she had cancer and was dying, I did it. I’m going back to my maiden name, though. Kept it 10 years and I promised her 10 years. Best gift I ever got: Watching River try to catch Santa every year for many years. Was the best present and I miss those days.

• Shandra Chandler: Okay, so when I was about 12 my mom was dating a fella that we all thought was a great man. We lived in Molalla, Ore., and their relationship had progressed to the point of where he was going to move us to a different town because of a job. Christmas was a week away... my mom, my brother, myself and this man all had the car loaded to the hilt, pickup was loaded and the man that my mom was dating at the time decided he was going to take a load to our new home. We stayed behind to finish packing and to have it done for him when he got back. He proceeded to leave… and never came back. He was what we call a true con artist. After two days of my mom’s worrying thinking that he was hurt or in a wreck or what not we learned that we had been taken advantage of. My mother proceeded to contact the local law enforcement, where they brought a picture lineup and we pointed out the man who had done this too our family. We are all in disbelief and shock. Our whole life gone — everything gone a week before Christmas. I remember seeing the hurt and the loss in my mother’s eyes — not knowing what she was going to do, knowing that we were leaving a home that we had told the owners we couldn’t live in anymore. Of course, mom fixed that, but her with her children sitting in a house that had nothing in it. No food or anything ... but just a few rare boxes that were left in the bedrooms. There were lots of tears, lots of, ‘oh my gosh what am I going to do?’ but you know moms always find a way and my mom did. The night before Christmas when we went to bed on the floors my mother had went through the remaining boxes in the house and they happened to be boxes that were in her bedroom. They were her items that she wrapped (in newspaper) and gave to us children as Christmas gifts so that we would have something to open Christmas morning. They were some of the most memorable gifts I’ll ever remember getting. One Christmas I will never forget. Hard struggles, but we made it through.

• Toni Baker: Mine was when I got my engagement was wrapped in Christmas paper, but my future husband couldn’t keep a secret, so I got it on Thanksgiving instead. He did give me a down vest for Christmas that I had no idea I was getting. Merry Christmas to me, and after 36 years of marriage, I still love the ring.

• Pam Chilton Postma: It was 1965, we had just moved to Washington from Missouri. Looking back now, we were poor. I received a sampler box of chocolates, about six pieces, and a turquoise transistor radio with a black plastic cover. It all probably cost less than $10, but I was thrilled! For some reason that is the gift I remember most as a child. If only things were that simple now!

• Kelly Arnzen Shehee: My most memorable gift that was given to me was the year my mom packaged and shipped my great-grandma Bailey’s buffet all the way to me in South Carolina! I’m not sure how old it is. I’m also not sure if it was hers originally or passed down to her. But I love it! It holds many memories and it has my china in it. It gets decorated every season/holiday. I hope to pass it on some day as well.

• Leslie Vopat: I got a Siamese kitten when I was 3 — of course it was from Santa. I was so surprised.

• Rose Ann Woolridge Mangini: I have a very poor memory so only one I remember is the year I found my gift before it was wrapped. I never looked for any gifts ahead of time from then on. Christmas was no fun since I knew what was in my package.

• Doris Bennett: Lot of unique or different gifts but the one that stands out for me was the year——early ‘80s — that Vic and I and the kids made homemade gifts. Vic made me a pillow that said Mrs. B. on it and had a bee and flowers painted on it. It still means an awful lot to me — especially when he passed away a year or two later.

• Delise Paisley Denham: In college ... I was broke. My mom rocked it with a case of toilet paper, paper towels, Q-tips, tampons, laundry soap, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and a terry cloth bathrobe. I think my mom called it ‘the Costco Christmas.’ When you are in college, it was like getting the motherlode. My sister and I still talk about that Christmas and how thankful we were for those gifts.

• Lara Heidtman Smith: This was sent to us a few years ago … something that I had waited 30 years to have. It’s an elephant headpiece from Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey. Not something you get to see very often.

• Raynae Redman: I owned a student grade fiddle in an old wooden case. The case wasn’t very protective, but it worked. I was 40 years old, and I’d been playing fiddle for just four or five years. It was my first instrument I’d ever played because I started learning as an adult. A friend had a really nice fiddle he wanted to sell. It was way more money than I knew John would ever reasonably let me spend on one or that we could afford either. This friend of mine let me borrow the good fiddle while he was trying to sell it with the understanding that if he found a buyer I’d need to return it. After I’d been playing it a few months he asked for it back saying he had a buyer for it. I was crushed but I knew that was the deal. This was in September so early enough that there was no suspicion on my part but also no suspicion because I knew we didn’t have the money nor would John okay spending such an amount on an instrument. Christmas morning when the last gift was opened, and all the grandkids were merrily playing with their new toys, suddenly one of my adult kids looks and here in the way back of the tree hidden away was one last package. It was for me from John and it was in a rectangle shape. As I opened it I saw this nice fiddle case and I was totally naive for all the above reasons. I thought John had bought me a nice case to replace the wooden one I was using. Then I unzipped it to see the inside and immediately the smell of the old fiddle wood and the pink velvet case was obvious what this was. The buyer my friend had for that good fiddle was my husband! John had secretly contacted the owner and then pulled money out of our savings from a side construction job he’d been doing to buy it for me. I was so shocked that I broke down crying happy tears. Why I didn’t recognize the case as the same one is beyond me other than the fact that several cases are similar but since this case was slightly an older one I should’ve recognized it immediately. I guess that I was totally convinced that it was too nice of a fiddle for our budget so I never in a million years expected it, but the real reason I think was because the Lord wanted me to be surprised beyond belief and for my husband to see my joy. I certainly was. I’ll never forget that Christmas and the sacrifice my husband made for me.


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