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Family ties
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Holiday Issue: The Gift

Family Ties: Lisa Frazier Page on a memorable Christmas gift

(Chris Hartlove)
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By Lisa Frazier Page
Sunday, November 22, 2009

It was the first Christmas of the new millennium, and for my husband and me, the beginning of a new phase in our lives. After years of trying unsuccessfully to have children, we were adopting our first baby.

"Let's give each other something that doesn't cost any money," I suggested one evening, desperate to extract more meaning from our annual gift-giving ritual.

"Works for me," Kevin responded.

He was as excited by the opportunity to save some cash as anything else. He had proposed for our first Christmas together in 1992, just eight months after his father (the nice man who prepared my taxes that year) introduced us. Topping that gift was pretty tough, but we certainly had spent our fair share on clothes, shoes, jewelry, perfume, golf and spa memberships for one another through the years.

I always stumbled into the holidays unprepared. And the last-minute bustle of it all -- wading through crowded shopping centers in search of the right size, right color, right gadget for family and friends -- drained my energy and bank account. The holiday stress intensified when Kevin and I moved from New Orleans to Maryland in 1995 and had to transport those packages home each year for celebrations with our parents and extended families.

Over time, the presents Kevin and I gave each other seemed more like an afterthought, some item picked up in that last dash to the department store. One year, he forgot the malls closed early on Christmas Eve and was empty-handed and embarrassed.

"I'm sorry, baby," he said, though no words could erase the hurt.

But for Christmas 2000, I wanted none of that -- no material expectations. The season was about giving, and I longed to give Kevin something thoughtful and heartfelt, something that captured the depth of my appreciation for the committed, cool-headed partner he had been.

In the early years, our marriage was not a smooth, effortless dance. But he was always there for me.

There to talk me around the Beltway every time I got lost on the way to a job assignment or a hair appointment in the days before navigation systems.

There to muffle my cries when the phone call came from Louisiana early one morning with news that my uncle Paul, like a brother to me, was dead of AIDS at age 39.

There to see my family and me through the deaths of two more of my mother's brothers, both in their 40s, each funeral about a month apart.


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