Gifts That Aren’t Things, and a Little Bit of Grammar

A while* ago, one of my professors asked the class what was the best gift they had ever received.  Answers like car, iPod, and laptop were thrown around the room.  [Distant humming: “‘Cuz we are liiiiiiving in a mateeeerial world…”]  There were even a few interesting stories to go along with them, but most were sweet sixteen type things.  My professor was starting to get annoyed.  Guys, he said (and I’m paraphrasing here), gifts don’t have to be things.  Of course, that was followed by a few blank stares and some confused blinking.  I don’t remember the stories after that, but I know they were slightly more heart-wrenching than Ms. I-got-a-car-for-my-sixteenth-birthday and Mr. Laptop-for-graduation.  But it got me thinking.  What was the best gift I ever received?

I think it was for Christmas when I was little.  I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but it was during the window when my brother and sister both lived in South Carolina.  I missed them pretty constantly (I cried whenever visits would end), and I’m sure it broke their hearts a little.  (Sorry about that.)  Anyway, Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve morning–I don’t totally remember), we get a call at around six in the morning.  My dad answers the phone; it’s my brother.  “Open the door, it’s cold outside.”  And sure enough, my brother is standing in front of our house.  He had driven all night to come see us for Christmas.

I don’t remember if I was actually up when this happened or if I just heard about it later, but it was definitely the best gift I’ve ever received (and my parents bought me a laptop for graduation–that was pretty cool–this was cooler).  I feel like I should have a moral here, but I don’t really.  Go out of your way to make people happy?  Surprises are fun?  I don’t know.  I just wanted to tell the story.


*I finally learned the difference between “a while” and “awhile.”  The first is an article followed by a noun, dictating a specific set of time.  The second is an adverb meaning “for a time.”  I’ll probably forget it again soon.


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