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Embracing the Small Gifts

By Rosalyn Eves

I love Christmas and the holiday season–though you wouldn’t have guessed that Monday morning, as grumpy as I was. I was smothering under the weight of my to-do list, and taking all three of my kids grocery shopping had proven to be the last straw. I snapped at my children, frightening them, for once, into something like quiet. I hustled them to meet their dad on campus, while I went alone to the campus post office to mail a package and buy stamps. (I wasn’t yet crazy enough to brave the local post office on the Monday before Christmas).

As I sorted through the letters I’d brought with me and affixed stamps to each one, I started to calm down. I half-listened the postal workers (all young, married students) talk about their new in-laws, and I started to remember why every year I add sending Christmas cards to an already full to-do list. For me, there’s something about that moment of writing down someone’s address and remembering our shared memories and experiences–of celebrating all the people I have loved at all the different stages of my adult life: college roommates, mission companions, colleagues in graduate school, friends in various wards. To me, the act of writing and sending the card, small as it is, is a way of saying to them and to the universe at large: I love you, you are important to me and my life, and I am thinking about you.

Giving a gift.jpg

(Note: if you do not send Christmas cards, please do not read this as an indictment! It’s not. This isn’t something everyone loves equally, and it’s not always feasible, even for me).

Sometimes I wonder if I lose Christmas in the big gestures–in hunting for the perfect gift, for that one thing that will make my kids’ eyes light like stars on Christmas morning. I forget that there’s an equal joy to be found in small gifts. Maybe more, in fact, because there’s less pressure for the gift to be as meaningful for the receiver as I anticipate.

I’ve spent the last week making pomegranate jam–batches and batches of it. It started a few years ago as an experiment, and we’ve kept it going until it has become a kind of tradition for my family. Sometimes, I’m not sure why we do it–but then I remember how, the first year we delivered the jam, one of my neighbors wept, because it was the same jam her father had put on their table at Christmas.

There are probably better things I could do with that time. Certainly easier and cheaper things. But weirdly, I find stirring the simmering red, sugary liquid soothing. And today, as I walked around our neighborhood to deliver the finished jams, I felt connected to my neighbors in ways I don’t usually feel, as I go about my own routine in my own home. It’s a small thing, as gifts go, but it brings pleasure anyway. To me, and to them.  A young woman (the only member in her family), lit up when I handed her the jam and told me how much her father and sister enjoyed the jam I brought last year.  As we get closer to Christmas and things get more hectic, I want to remember this quiet joy.

What small gifts have brought you joy recently (as a giver or receiver)?

About Rosalyn Eves

(Prose Board) currently lives in Southern Utah with her husband and three small children, where she teaches writing part-time at the local university. She has a BA in English from BYU, and an MA and PhD (also in English) from Penn State. In her spare time (what's that?) she likes to read, write, try new recipes (as long as she doesn't have to clean up), watch movies with her husband (British period drama is her favorite), go for walks, and generally avoid anything that resembles housework. Her first novel comes out Spring 2017 from Knopf.

4 thoughts on “Embracing the Small Gifts”

  1. Such a timely post! I realized yesterday that I don't always "see" my daughter because I'm so busy this time of year. I'm trying to focus more on being present than on buying presents, but it's tricky.

    I have two pomegranate trees; any chance you'd consider sharing your jam recipe? Sound delish!

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  2. The jam recipe comes from the Bell Blue book for canning. It's pretty straightforward:

    3 1/2 cups pomegranate juice (you can cut it with apple juice, which is what we usually do)
    6 T pectin (or one box)
    5 c. sugar

    Mix the juice and the pectin and bring to a boil over medium heat. When it begins to boil, add the sugar. Cook, continuing to stir, until the mixture reaches a hard boil. (You can add a tablespoon of butter to minimize the foam, too). Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Then ladle into jars and process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes (15 for high altitude).

    My favorite part is how pretty the jam looks–it's a lovely dark red.

    Reply
  3. Someone from the Relief Society recently brought some goodies that I shared with my family. Some days later, there was another package left at the house from the ward with a nice card with President Uchtdorf's message with proper attribution. The gift was not signed. It was yummy cinnamon bread from a local bakery that my family and I enjoyed. I love it when people are thoughtful. I think it is so good that you make jams. Doing something that slows us down as making your jam does important. Plus, it gives you a chance to connect even in a small way with neighbors and others. Traditions are so sweet when they bring us together and lighten our days.

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