96: The Most Beautiful Ugliest Gift Ever

96: The Most Beautiful Ugliest Gift Ever

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

The Most Beautiful Ugliest Gift Ever

You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.

~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

It was ugly. It was, in fact, the worst Christmas present I had ever received. I quickly feigned delight. After all, the giver was Michael, my four-year-old son, who had purchased the distasteful item at his school’s Christmas bazaar. No doubt from the white elephant table, I surmised.

“I bought it for you Mama,” he proudly exclaimed, offering it up to me, arms outstretched, face beaming, eyes big, blue and bright. At his young age, he had no way of knowing that this cheap-looking, off-white, ceramic, semi-circle thing (stuffed with unattractive plastic greenery), was the antithesis of all I valued about Christmas decor. And did I mention that it was ugly? Really, really ugly!

“We’ll . . . put it . . . here . . . on . . . on the . . . kitchen table,” I sputtered.

The rest of the house was bedecked with beautiful, natural materials from the garden. In the summers, I operated a garden gift shop out of the shed at the bottom of my yard. I also hosted an open house on the main floor of our Victorian-style home in late November, featuring high-end gifts for gardeners as well as natural items for the discriminating Christmas decorator (Ilex berries, rosehips, dogwood, etc.). And each year, I demonstrated unique and attractive ways to bring the outdoors in with wonderful, creative decorating ideas.

How awkward and out of place my son’s addition looked in the midst of all this natural beauty. He must have noticed my captivation with decorating and thought I would be pleased with such a gift.

Soon my older children burst through the back door, excited to relay the adventures of their day and display their precious purchases. Within seconds, the kitchen table was laden with treats: festively decorated cupcakes; cereal and marshmallow squares sprinkled red and green and wrapped in cellophane; a couple of flattened, muddied packages of homemade fudge; candy cane reindeer with pipe cleaner antlers, black, wiggly eyes and red Rudolph noses; and a few of the small crafts some of the moms had prepared for the kids to purchase with their allowance money.

“Where are the rest of the things you bought?” I turned and queried Michael, hoping he hadn’t eaten them at school or on the way home.

“I spent all my money on your present,” he said proudly, not the least bit bothered by the chatter and delight hovering in the air as the others admired their booty.

Suddenly, this ugly, lacklustre gift took on new significance.

“You spent all your Christmas bazaar money on me?” I asked, incredulous that a four-year-old boy would bypass candy and cup-cakes and crafty creations designed with kid-appeal in order to buy a present for his mom. Ugliness suddenly blossomed into beauty. I was delighted. No. Overjoyed. Wholeheartedly, I embraced both my son and his gift.

~Judi Peers

Peterborough, Ontario

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