My sister Ann was in town last week from California. I was delighted when she married someone from New York (whose family still lived here) because I knew it would clinch at least an annual visit. Over dinner in an Italian restaurant in the West Village she asked me if I remembered a really special Christmas gift from our childhood.
Funny -- I couldn't think of anything. A swirl of images that came to mind -- putting our fake Christmas tree together with my brothers and sisters (all ten of them); strings of tinsel tracked through the house; caroling and sledding; everyone in front of the TV for the annual airing of Rudolph and Frosty and the Grinch; eating too much Brach's bridge mix; playing endless rounds of Pinochle, Risk, Monopoly and Twister.
Every Christmas Eve, we all jammed into the station wagon and my dad drove us around to see the Christmas lights. Every year, Santa had the uncanny capacity to show up while we were out seeing the lights. Okay, I do vividly recall the year I got the Barbie airplane and my brother got Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. But for the most part, it's the pleasure of the non-material that lingers in my memory.
So in that spirit, we asked readers to tell us the greatest non-material gift they've ever received. (My greatest gift is the photo accompanying this story -- my husband Jim and my three daughters.) Here's a slideshow of some of our readers' responses. Consider it our non-material gift to you. Merry Christmas!