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Gifts at Christmas more than what sits under the tree

If you’re reading this today, it may mean that the Mayan calendar still has a few pages to turn. We can proceed with holiday tasks, and shoveling snow is no longer pointless.

Notable on my calendar was the annual Christmas gathering of my church ladies – the esteemed Sarah Circle.

Chairperson Bea Grigo had prioritized the events so that first business was a devotional reflection brought by Elaine Johnson. Johnson presented thoughts centered around a family that had a tradition of a decorated gift box under its tree.

Inside the box were slips of paper designating the charitable gifts the family had designated for others in need. What a fine idea, particularly in a year of so much sorrow.

Rapidly following were the gifts of Lazarus House, Silvia Wennlund’s prayer quilts for distribution, treats, a gift exchange and the catching-up type of conversation.

The ladies were in a good mood and cooperative when I asked a question.

What was your best-ever Christmas gift – under the tree and in life?

Nearly all were quick to list family – spouses, kids, siblings.

Not a surprise, especially when so many families suffer loss, much like the families of the students and staff in Connecticut.

On a lighter note, Carolyn Jones reported a childhood gift during the depression era of a stocking with a large orange, apple and nuts, plus a chenille robe made by her mother, and a cabinet for doll clothes handmade by her father.

Grigo got a tricycle when she was 3 years old.

Barbara Traver got a doll – who she named Suzie – that opened and shut her eyes. She also said her greatest gift in life is her loving, caring husband, Fred.

Jane Dodds feels gifted when all 10 grandchildren are gathered around their tree.

Johnson cites her best gift as that first bicycle and her husband, Don, and their four children and 10 grandchildren.

Ann Baker recalls her grandmother’s collection of lots of odds and ends, as well as lace and buttons she used to make doll clothes. Her favorite gift in life is the gift of love, which included her family and church, the arrival of a son from California and a forthcoming get-together with another son.

Pat Murray said she’s grateful for her husband, Bill, and their four daughters, and recalls a childhood gift of a doll with a fur-trimmed outfit as a favorite Christmas present.

Sylvia Wennlund recalled a special doll given to her at the age of 6 – the year after her mother passed away.

Dorothy Thompson found a Brownie camera under the tree. She, too, cites family, especially Christmas Eve with children, grandchildren, and grandaddy Ron.

Me? So far the most memorable gift was when I was in college and got a trip to Pasadena, Calif., and the Rose Bowl.

What’s my favorite gift in life?

My thick skin (and too bad all the stuff just underneath), so all the mean words, back-stabbing, slings and arrows of bad news, rejections and pitfalls don’t hurt so much.

Finally, a special thank you to Elaine, Don, Barb, Fred and Paul who discreetly guided me and the wheelchair through the many layers of the church to the desperately needed destination.

Although, I felt like a wretch, they performed with amazing grace.

• Joan Arteberry is a long-time resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at

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