Holiday gifts you can’t buy

For the Monitor
Published: 12/29/2019 11:00:22 AM
Modified: 12/29/2019 11:00:10 AM

My disdain for most holidays continues to grow. I wonder why we set aside only a day or a week to acknowledge what ought to be a daily occurrence. Don’t we love our family, friends, and the Earth every day?

I find the compulsion to purchase Christmas gifts to be especially onerous. Even the nightly news tells us where the best deals can be had. What does this have to do with the teachings of Jesus? Ask a child what Christmas means to them, and most will answer “presents.”

Given the sorry state of the world, it’s no wonder that my bah-humbug feeling at this time of year is elevated. Recently, though, two surprising personal events made me appreciate the special meaning of an unexpected gift.

The first came in the form of an email from a cousin in New York who I’d never met.

Samantha learned through that she shared DNA with a man named Ed who lives in Colorado. Ed was looking for his father Manny Solomon. It turns out my father had a fling with Ed’s mother in 1939, eight years before I was born, and Ed was the result. My sister and I learned we had a brother!

My father kept Ed a secret, including from my mother. She didn’t find out until Ed was 41 when they met in San Diego. Worried “what people would think,” my mother kept Manny’s other son a secret from the rest of the family. On her deathbed, she finally told her brother, making him promise to never tell my sister or me about Ed.

After 80 years, the secret is finally out. My sister and I have spoken with Ed, who lives in Colorado, and has two daughters and three grandchildren in San Diego, where my sister also lives. We are planning a family reunion there next month to celebrate!

The second event came from a chat with 8-year-old granddaughter Eliza. I asked her what her three biggest wishes would be, whether or not they could be granted. The first was “to be what I want to be, a pop star, a writer, and librarian.” No surprise there. After a while, in a quiet voice, she said her second wish was “to see Anna again.”

Anna was Eliza’s first friend at pre-school in Pembroke when she was four. They bonded immediately, and couldn’t wait to see each other in the morning. Anna left school the year after they met, moving to Maine, breaking Eliza’s heart. I took a photo of the two of them that Eliza has had on her night table ever since.

After hearing Eliza’s wish, I told her it would be possible to try to find Anna by asking the school if they had any contact information for Anna’s family. Eliza’s face broke into a big smile, tears trickling down her cheeks. It was the first time I’d seen her genuinely cry from joy.

Two days later, Eliza’s mother had exchanged texts with Anna’s mother in Maine.

The girls have seen updated pictures of each other, and are looking forward to a video meeting after the holidays. A reunion in Portsmouth could happen in the summer.

I never did find out what Eliza’s third wish was. I think we are both satisfied with our unexpected gifts, each of us experiencing a reunion; she after four years, me after 72. Helping her dream come true of finding Anna was the biggest present I could hope for. To also learn of a brother I hadn’t known existed made this a holiday season of surprising gifts, none of which I had to shop for.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


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