A Gift of Love and Laughter

Image generously granted public domain license by its creator, Alexandra Constantin.
Image generously released into the public domain by its creator, Alexandra Constantin.

My father was a pure-dee nut. Although he could be very serious when the situation warranted, most of the time he engaged in the kind of subtle silliness that kept everyone’s eyes in a perpetual, disbelieving roll…accompanied by the type of laughter that gets away from you despite your best effort to keep a straight face. The trait must have been genetic, because he passed it on to all four of his offspring.

One Christmas shortly after he returned from a tour in Viet Nam, my father’s sense of humor took a turn for the exasperating. As usual, the six of us sat around the tree waiting for Momma to open the last gift: her present from Daddy. A child of the Great Depression, Daddy usually gave Momma something practical—no less loved, but practical.

On that Christmas, quiet and well-behaved for once, we kids focused rapt attention on the mammoth present in Momma’s lap. Also a child of the Great Depression, she always unwrapped gifts with great care, in order to save the paper and ribbons for use the following year. Momma folded the paper and set it aside, then lifted the lid from the box. Inside lay another wrapped package. She dutifully—and carefully—unwrapped that box, too. Yet another wrapped parcel emerged. And so it went, for what seemed like fifty layers. With each new layer, Momma and all four of us kids gave Daddy one of those ducked-chin, cocked-brows looks that said “I’ll bet you think you’re funny, don’t you?”

Not in the least affected by our disapproval, Daddy continued grinning and chuckling.

Finally, Momma opened the last box. Inside was a worn-out combat boot she thought she’d disposed of months ago.

My siblings and I are lucky our eyes didn’t stick at the apex of an enormous, simultaneous roll. The synchronized groan shook the rafters.

Lips pinched but curved the tiniest bit at the corners, Momma speared Daddy with an undisguised “I’ll kill you when the children aren’t watching” look and reluctantly reached inside the bedraggled boot. From the deepest, darkest recesses of the toe, she withdrew a tiny, elegant box.

Momma's ringA moment frozen in time will remain in my memory long past eternity. Inside the box was a beautiful ring. Diamonds and deep-blue sapphires sparkled with a thousand points of light. Daddy gently slipped the gift onto Momma’s trembling finger.

I hardly ever saw my mother cry, but tears trickled down her cheeks that morning.

Momma and Daddy are gone now, but the ring and the memories will live forever. That sparkly Christmas present from long ago, and the memory of its giving, are among my most cherished possessions.

May your holidays be filled with the little irritations all families inflict upon one another. Even those—perhaps especially those—are priceless gifts.


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40 thoughts on “A Gift of Love and Laughter”

  1. What a gorgeous ring and such a fun story to go along with it. I can imagine how this memory sticks with you forever.

    • Pam, like my mother, I’m not a tearful person. My cheeks were wet as I wrote this, though. Precious memories will do that to a person, I guess.

      I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday and much peace and love in the coming year. HUGS!!!!

  2. what a beautiful story,,reminds me of my Daddy,he loved to play jokes on someone when they least expect it,,and he adored my Mom,,he never forgot a holiday and always included us kids too,,he had to get everyone a gift that HE picked out himself

  3. Wow, Kathleen. I got to the combat boot part and thought, oh NO. Then, those thousand points of love. What a terrific story…don’t forget to get this event in a book some time. Love and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  4. What a wonderful memory. It brought me to tears. I remember all the wonderful gifts and not so wonderful gifts my dad gave my mom. They too are gone now. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memory with us.

    • Kathleen, our memories are priceless, aren’t they? I wouldn’t trade mine — good and bad — for anything. I’ll bet you wouldn’t either. 🙂

      May all the fun and laughter of the season make more beautiful memories for you and yours this year and long into the future.

      (Love your name, BTW. 😉 )

  5. Such a touching story. May I ask if you have the ring or how it was decided? I tend to get attached to items for their memories and this is a wonderful one!

    • I do have the ring. The picture in the post is one I took last night. Keeping the dogs out of the shot was one of those irritating little treasures I mentioned. 😉

      Unlike some families, my siblings and I didn’t fight over my parents’ estate. In fact, when two or more of us wanted the same thing, we fought over which of us had to take it! 😀 Momma and Daddy would have gotten a kick out of that.

      I hope you and your family make many more memories — not only during this holiday season, but for years to come. 🙂

  6. Kathleen, this is the most touching Christmas story I have read this year. Thank you for sharing your beautiful Christmas memories with us. Your dad was quite a man, who must have loved and appreciated your mom very much! Not only did he buy her a most beautiful ring, but he was able to bring suspense and laughter to the entire family in the most endearing way. Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Claudia. My dad was indeed an extraordinary man. My mom was an extraordinary woman, too. The two of them still held hands and giggled like high-school kids every chance they got — even out in public, which mortified us kids when we were young. 😀

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, too, sweetheart! May the holiday season and the coming year bring you peace, happiness, and love. 🙂


  7. Well, it made me cry, too. What a wonderful, wonderful story. And what a gift you inherited from your parents, especially your dad, that of a wild, crazy sense of humor. How lucky you are.
    Our Christmases were simple, but my older sister was to be married on Christmas Day at home, so we opened gifts the night before except for a few special ones. This was so daddy could get the tree down and out of the living room for the wedding and reception, which would include a number of friends. We got up early and opened gifts, with Daddy hurrying us like crazy. Soon all the gifts were put away and Daddy went to get boxes or something and while the living room was empty, the big decorated tree fell over in the middle of the floor. He did not laugh, and the rest of us did–even my sister who was to be married. I’ve always wondered why they didn’t leave the tree up. I could see not reason to remove it–it was pretty and she was having a Christmas wedding.
    Thanks for the story–and what’re you doing over here at P&P?

    • Celia, you stories about growing up within a loving family frequently choke me up. I’m glad I could return the favor. 😉

      What a delightful story about your sister’s Christmas wedding! I could see the scene while I read. This is one of your great talents (among many), my dear: putting people right inside your stories — whether real life or fiction.

      As for P&P? I played hooky from Sweethearts of the West. You caught me, dangit. 😀

      BIG HUGS and my best holiday wishes to you and yours.

    • Kathleen, I’m not surprised the combat boot got to you. Your award-winning books about the military, war, and their effects on families overflow with emotion.

      Have a merry Christmas, honey — and keep writing those wonderful books. 🙂

  8. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this lovely Christmas memory. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

    • Thank you, Livia. I’m planning to have a lovely Christmas. I hope you, James, the critters, and the kids will enjoy a lovely celebration, too. Y’all have brought a lot of joy into a whole bunch of lives this year.

      BIG HUGS, Fearless Leader! I don’t know what I’d do without you. 🙂

  9. This wonderful story was made even better by the way you told it. You had me on the edge of my seat, and then crying like a baby. Merry Christmas, Kathleen.

  10. What a wonderful and tender story, Tex. I think there’s something special in a child’s mind when their father surprises their mother.

    Merry Christmas!

  11. I remember those rings. My husband had 4 tours in B-52’s to the Vietnam War. Our first Christmas he was back there for the second time. He gave me a lovely pearl necklace. Everyone was buying the Princess rings, but not mine. There was a Four Season bracelet in either gold or silver that the guys were buying. They carried it with them in case they were shot down to use the links as bargaining chips. Most of the air crew wives got them. Not me. He gave one to his mother, which I now have. Most years, our gifts tend towards the practical, which is fine with me.

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas. You have some wonderful memories to make it special.

  12. What a beautiful gift and amusing presentation. Believe me, I understand the quirks and aggravation of the post Depression parents and a father who acts like a comedian. I suffered through my childhood the same way. That makes your personal story even dearer to me. It’s a beautiful memory–and that’s a gift, too. I think I enjoy personal history accounts best of all.
    In spite of all the bumps in your road this year, I hope your Christmas is filled with peace and happiness.

  13. What a sweet story, Kathleen, and a wonderful memory. I have a necklace my dad gave my mom. I don’t even like the necklace, but love the memory. The earrings to go with it are clip on and hurt my ears, so I don’t wear them. I do treasure the set.

    Merry Christmas!

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