The book | Christmas stories

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I recently received a gift I was reluctant to accept. I find it really difficult to accept things that have a great meaning attached to them and recently a friend has given me something that I feel like I don’t deserve at all. Although I feel conflicted, I have to admit it’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever been gifted. Still, I was so caught of guard that I doubted it was even a gift at first. I simply thought he was letting me borrow it for a while. Which would already be a fantastic gift. Part of me still thinks he’ll want it back eventually, if he ever does, I’ll give it back in a blink.

I’m the world’s worst gift receiver – trust me on this one – so I often struggle with letting people know how much I appreciate what I was given. Sometimes I’ll feel so bad about receiving something that I’ll have to put it out of sight for a while. There’s this lump in my throat, this notion that I could never repay or even give something back that has that much meaning attached to it, that I just can’t seem to get rid off. Eventually it’ll get better, but not until I do something that I feel will balance things out.

Before we even considered ourselves friends we bonded over our Christmas madness. I don’t think I had ever met a fellow Christmas enthusiast, at least not one with whom I could relate so much. He might have been the first person I offered Christmas socks to. And we weren’t even that close back then. Every year, I give the people that I’m closest with a little stocking with the essentials, it’s my little tradition. The top item on that list? Socks. It’s a basic item that one could never have too much of. I think that you should always provide the people you love with the essentials first and then spoiled them if you can. But I’m going off track.
Through the years I realized that this friend has many christmas traditions he likes to follow. The christmas enthusiast in me admires that a lot. One of the traditions I admired the most was the one with the book. He would read the same book every year around Christmas time. As someone who finds it difficult to read even a brochure twice, I really admired this tradition. I would always think to myself: I’m gonna have to buy that book and read it to understand him a bit better, although I always believed the key wasn’t the story itself, but the familiarity of the tradition. Turns out, I never ended up buying it.

This year, at the beginning of November – we established that it’s acceptable to start the Christmas festivities at this time – he told me he had a gift for me. If you’re thinking it’s the book, you’re absolutly right. However, I never thought it could be that. I don’t think I ever told him how much I admired his tradition, so I was caught by surprise when I saw what it was. At first I taught he had bought me one like his, which would have been fantastic. But it was his own edition. Needless to say I didn’t want to accept it. I think I failed to managed to convince him this was only a rental. Sure, I’ll hold onto it until you’re ready to take it back, friend.

He told me he though I would take good care of it, it’s a big responsibility there buddy, I hope I’ll manage. I was still reluctant, there’s nothing I can give him that you compare to that. He’s had that book for around 17/18 years. If I was to gift him one of the books I’ve had for that long, he would end up with a beat up copy of a picture book of The Sleeping Beauty. I don’t think it would fulfill the purpose quite the same.

The thing about this friend .. I don’t get attached easily but he crawled under my skin and now I care. I care that I’m empty handed. Don’t have any cards up my sleeve for the moment being. I hate to be in debt, but that’s what we have for Christmas this year. I’m very grateful for his gift, I am. I’ve been enjoying the book slowly. There’s a whole experience attached to it and I’m very appreciative of that. I like books that look and feel like they’ve been read, they’ll tell you two stories at once. So it was a great gift, one of my all time favourites. It comes with a great cost though: I can never repay it.

And I really wanted to. It’s important to give back. It’s important to let people know that they are appreciated, and I often fail to show that. I hope creativity strikes and I find my way to repay it soon. Until then, my gratitude will have to do.

 

 

 

 

Teasure hunt | Christmas stories

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There was this street on a city close to mine where people would go all out on the Christmas lights. So, when I was little, on the month of December we would go out after sunset to go see the lite up houses. There was always a ton of people taking pictures and it was hard to park, but it was one of my absolute favourite things.

My parents and I developed this unspoken tradition on Christmas Eve afternoon, no matter where we are, we’ll bake during the afternoon, drink a glass of port while everything is the oven and lazy out as much as we can. Some year we’ll stay home, others we’ll go to spend it with family, but we always do the little ritual.

A few years ago, while I was living in France, it was the middle of the afternoon and we just had finished backing, we were talking about the Christmas decorations and how very few people decorate their houses in the neighborhood. I asked if there was any place that they of, that would go all out, like the one we used to visit when I was little. My dad said that he had passed by a few houses that a very creative decor, but it wasn’t really close to my normal route to work, hence why I wouldn’t have seen them yet.

So, he drove me to see them. It was a short ride, no one was wondering the streets, we photographed the decorations and talked for a bit, after we drove back home again. It was a simple thing, but it’s one of the sweetest memories I share with my dad. Just that little ride on a Christmas Eve afternoon. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year or what we baked that afternoon, but I do remember that ride very well. It was a sweet gift.

The Draughts Board | Christmas Stories

 

I don’t remember how old I was exactly or many years it lasted, but it’s a very sweet memory I hold on to dearly.

My mother’s brother and his wife lived in the small village that I was born in. When the heath would start to kick in we would go there to have barbecues on the weekend; when autumn would strike we would go there to pick up chestnuts and walnuts. It was a bit of a long drive, so we made the most of our time there. My uncle would always get very excited that we were there, and would often insist that we stayed for dinner.

I don’t know exactly who taught of it first, but I remember one day my mother asking me if I would mind spending Christmas at my uncle’s home. I was more than pleased with the idea, my uncle and his wife were always so sweet to me, there was no way the night was gonna be anything but fun. And I was right. It was such a success that we ended up spending a few more Christmas’s with them.

Although they had two sons, both of them were married and lived abroad, so it was just the 5 of us. We would get there in the middle of the afternoon, my mum baked the majority of the desserts at home and when we got there all that was left to do was to cook dinner. Their house was very cold, in the middle of the field, left defenseless from the winds and rains of December, the fireplace had to start burning in the morning so that we could have a warm night. We would have dinner and then right after dive into the games. My father and uncle used to tease each other while I tried my best to learn how to cheat in cards.

Way to often, Christmas night will only last until presents are exchanged, and then everyone just kind of wonders off or falls asleep. They didn’t had a lot, so there was no presents to exchange, which actually lift off the pressure. We stayed up until late in the evening playing games and just laughing hopelessly at the cheating attempts.

We would often play cards, but on one occasion my uncle brought up his draughts board. I had never played before, but got the gist of it very quickly. I remember him telling me that I could keep it, it was mine to have. I looked over my mum to see if I should accept it. You see, as I said before, they didn’t have much, and little me knew that you can’t take things from people who have less than you do. I had my cards, my board games, I was all set; although I liked the game, I couldn’t take it. It was something of his, something that once belonged to someone he treasured dearly. And I knew how attached he was to things that once belonged to someone he loved.

– But what if someone else comes, you might wanna play with them.

– It’s yours Nina, you like it so it’s yours.

– I’ll play when I come here, I’ll play with you. It’s fine, I don’t have to have it.

– Nina, I want you to have it. It’s still in the family and I know you’ll take good care of it.

He told my mother to let me accept it and I eventually did. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a Christmas gift so much. It might just be the most cherished draughts board in the world.

He passed away a few years later one month before Christmas Day. That board is all I have left of him.