Material Things (Two Word Challenge) : Six Gifts for My Sister


Six Gifts for My Sister



Six Gifts for my Sister

 Older sisters are our teachers, our critics, our cruelest enemies and our best friends. When we were younger, my sister was no exception. With age, however, some of these roles have fallen away. The others I often take for granted even though I know they are still there.

This year I will be, as I have been for most years in my life, far away from my four-year-older sister, Patti, for Christmas. Betty, my 11-year-older sister, unfortunately started to leave us four years ago and now lives in a world we are not a part of. Both Patti and I fear the same thing happening to us and we’ve made some Thelma and Louise pacts to that end. Hopefully, we’ll never have to use them and will fade peacefully away in our dreams when we are well over 100.

If this sounds excessive, you are right. I am a glutton for life and probably part of the reason is the capacity for play taught to me by my sister, who was always my most imaginative playmate. Even when I’m sad, I love living and want for life to go on for as long as possible, so long as I remain relatively pain-free and retain my mind, my sense of humor and my girlish good figure. One of these things does not belong. You can probably guess which one.

Since I live in Mexico and my sister will be in her home near Phoenix this year, we have sent gifts early. Mine sits on top of the armoire in my beach rental in its blue wrapping bag with curly ribbon. I have added a pelican feather and gaudy ribbon streamers. Since I’ve chosen to spend this Christmas far from friends and other relatives, it is my only gift and I am hoarding its mystery until the last possible minute. Perhaps I’ll open it at 11:55 P.M. on December 25! I’m sure my sister has not opened hers, either.

A usual tradition in our family was to do Christmas stockings to which we all contributed. (Well, except for my dad, who instead donated the cash we all used to purchase our stocking stuffers.) With that in mind and feeling sentimental, I’d like to assemble an imaginary Christmas stocking for my sister to open right now—as soon as she sees this. It’s a not such a large stocking, but as in all things imaginary, anything is possible; so I’m sure all the gifts will fit.

I need to start at the top, with the lightest most crushable items, and so the first gift she will find sticking out of the top of the stocking will be something flat, rolled into a cylinder before wrapping. When she rips off the paper in her usual unceremonial fashion, she will know exactly why I have given it to her.

It is a folder of Debra Paget paper dolls with snub-nosed scissors taped to the front to encourage her to actually cut them out. I have visions of them decorating her tree for the remainder of its life this year, or even better, my sister on her stomach on the living room rug, cutting them out while she listens to “Our Miss Brooks” or “The Shadow” on the radio, then assembles the material for a paper doll house: Kleenex box beds and sofas, tuna can tables covered in tissue tablecloths. Since she taught me these imaginary games, she’ll figure out the rest. Then I want her to imagine me there playing with her. She can be Debra Paget. I’ll be anyone she wants me to be, as was the norm way back then when we constructed our first paper worlds.

The next box she pulls from the stocking will be long, narrow and flattish. It will weigh practically nothing. There will be instructions on the front to open it more carefully than usual, for it is fragile. When she folds back the paper, she’ll find a box of the old aluminum tinsel—the extra long and extra skinny type that only she knew how to put on perfectly. It was an art, this distribution of tinsel on the tree. One had to be sure to spread it out evenly in bunches of only three or four strands. For maximum beauty, it had to be hung on the ends of branches so it hung just to the top of the next branch without lapping over. In our house, it was never thrown! I am absolutely sure that now, as then, Patti and I are the only ones with patience enough to do the job right, so she will have to do it for both of us.

I’m sure that what the next gift is will be obvious. It is a Christmas tradition started by my mother, who would tuck a small box of Russell Stover Chocolates in each stocking. At times, she would succumb to temptation and all of the boxes would be empty as she generously absorbed all of their calories herself. I am making one small change in tradition and tucking in a box of See’s Chocolates in lieu of Mother’s poor taste in chocolate. Helen Grace would be even better, if I knew where to buy them.

The next box is small and may have slid a bit farther down in the stocking when the others were removed, so I’ve attached a streamer that extends well out of the top of the sock. Pull the streamer and the little box will pop out. Inside is a key. Looks like the key to a car. Actually, it is the key to a little tan Scout whose top can be taken off to make it a convertible. Here are the instructions I’ve written for Patti and wrapped around the key:

There is room for the driver (that’s you) and one more friend in front. (That’s me.) I am sitting there in honor of friends no longer able to: Patty Peck, Diane Looby, Mary Jo Kuckleberg. I think Karen Bossart is so slim that she could also squeeze in front with us. In the back, along the side benches and on the floor, if you really pack them in, there is room for at least eight others and I have written them all to be expecting your call. Billy Francis, Clarence Rea, Mick Penticoff and Bobby Brost are all must-rides. Since the male friends of your youth have outlasted most of your female friends, Billy and C.J. and Mick can bring their wives to sit in for Patty, Diane and Mary Jo. If my buddy Rita North were going to be in Arizona for Christmas (she isn’t) she could tag along as both of us always longed to do—and sometimes we were actually asked! Jim, I don’t think a Scout is your style, but be a sport and ride along in the back with the guys! You’ll discover formerly undiscovered levels of fun bumping along in this replica of Patti’s and my first wheels. And there is always room for one more in the back of a Scout!

The next gift is merely an envelope. Inside are two tickets to Africa. The accompanying note reads:

—To complete our journey that was once curtailed by a revolution and shooting that sent you off to bravely face the rest of the trip alone. It’s about time we tried it again, hopefully with happier endings. Since then, you’ve been back so many times that you can probably pick the agenda better than I could, so it’s an open ticket. You fill in the blanks.

So, we’ve finally come to the bottom of the stocking, but anyone who has plunged into the depths of a Christmas stocking knows there is always something left in the stocking’s toe. In this case it is a small but substantial box wrapped in rich gold paper with a shiny silver cord. Inside is a slide with a large diamond set in gold. Although I know that gold and diamonds are no longer my sister’s “style,” this one is a wonderful modern design with an emerald-cut stone set in a flat gold setting. It is this gift that I’ve chosen to show her worth to me and for that, nothing but the best will do!

Merry Christmas to all. Especially to that sister who has been there for me every single time and who need never worry again about being mean to me in our youth. That, too, is what older sisters are meant to do. It gets us ready for the world, which will not always be paper dolls and U’ing main in a Scout chock full of friends.

This is a reblog of a piece I wrote three years ago. The two word prompt this time was “Material Things:” If you want to play along or see other blog entries for this prompt, go here:

24 thoughts on “Material Things (Two Word Challenge) : Six Gifts for My Sister

  1. slmret

    I love this, Judy — it brings back many wonderful memories, although the stocking stuffers are quite different than ours were. Ours always had a walnut and a tangerine in the toe, but there were some wonderful treasures above that!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    Although I loved-loved-LOVED this story, I did wonder why the gifts had to be sent SO early! Is the post THAT difficult in Mexico? I chuckled when I read it was a reblog. Thanks so much for sharing again.

    I don’t have time to go into detail, but one year I actually gave (and received) presents of this type from the first love of my life. Wrapped boxes empty except for the magical presents. Perhaps I’ll share the story on my blog this December.Should I misplace the link whenever I get around to sharing, please leave it in a comment so that I can link to it.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lifelessons Post author

      Madelyn: As per the post office in Mexico? My birthday is on July 3 and I just got my card from a friend a few days ago–in September. I usually get my Xmas cards when I get home from the beach mid-March or early April. Yes. The mail is slooooooow. If you get it at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Christine Goodnough

    A beautiful and very touching piece. So glad you had a family that loved each other, shared fun times and made such precious memories. I was the oldest girl in our family, but didn’t grow up with my siblings, so was more like an only-child cousin for most of my growing-up years. (Though I was really close with my 11-month-older brother when we were young.)

    I can just imagine how your sister will treasure your “wish-I-could-give” gift.


      1. Christine Goodnough

        Yes, I have, and I’m thankful that with God’s help and a good marriage, I could make it. My sister (at age fifteen, baby on the way) married a guy who turned out to be a violent drunk and it’s been downhill ever since. (Though she had a good dad who praised her often — just the opposite of mine.)
        I understand why a lot of girls can’t make it, why they get into depression and commit suicide or end up on the streets. When I was twelve I did think about suicide but was too scared hell might be real and I’d find myself there. I feel sorry for kids now who are basically told suicide is a one-way ticket to Heaven. For depressed young people that’s inviting disaster.


        1. lifelessons Post author

          So, I’m confused. Didn’t you and your sister have the same dad? Do you mean the uncle that raised you was a bad dad to you and your birth dad to your sister? I have so much admiration for you, Christine.. for both this and other things you have overcome in your life.


  4. Christine Goodnough

    To answer your question, my birth dad liked girls and was always good to his daughters, including me whenever I was there. He often told my sister Donna that she was a smart, pretty little girl. My birth dad was harder on my brother Jim and made him work, but there wasn’t the animosity between him and Jim that there was between my uncle and his son. However, between my birth parents there was a lot of Andy Capp style knock-down drag-out fights.

    My Uncle—the Dad who raised me—on the other hand seemed just miserable and bitter a lot of the time, and definitely verbally abusive. Physical abuse was usually confined to a slap on the head, “boxing your ears”, unless he really lost his temper.

    His son Verne was four years old when Dad got back from the war and my Aunt/Mom says about the first thing Dad did was give Verne a lickin’ — which didn’t go far in winning the boy’s affection. But that’s how Dad was, If you didn’t behave perfectly you were stupid and hopeless.

    I hope this clarifies the situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lifelessons Post author

      Yes. Painfully clear, Christine. What in the world made folks think a slap on the head was a reasonable place to dish out discipline? Better a spank on a more rounded and less brain-filled place if necessary to take your aggression out on a child. The few times I’ve gotten angry enough at my dog to hit her, I was always flooded with regrets afterwards, thinking it is just as well I didn’t have children. I’ve never spanked a child, though, and hope I never would. And, it never seemed to hurt the dog, but always hurt my hand, so guess I learned my lesson even if she didn’t hurt hers. Ha.


      1. Christine Goodnough

        Have you ever read Oliver Twist? “Mr Bumble hit Oliver with his cane, once on the head to make him wise and once on the head to make him lively.”
        So it was an English/Scottish mentality; my Dad often used the expression “Knock some sense into you.” After all, it worked for those first radios and tvs. 🙂



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