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The best gifts last the longest

Laurie Olson

It was 1976 – our third Christmas as a married couple. Our home was a tiny log cabin in the woods of Mount Hood near Portland, Ore. Although it was unique and quaint, it was also very rustic. The kitchen had running water, but the bathroom was a chilly outhouse and dinner was prepared on a wood cookstove. Money was as scarce as the heat from our old potbelly stove.

Yet, like most young couples in the ’70s, we didn’t yearn for a fancy house or have a great desire to accumulate a lot of possessions. We were mostly happy with our little home, our baby son, our old Volkswagen Bug, and the fuzzy reception on our 12-inch black and white TV. Christmas didn’t worry us. We didn’t feel the need to go into debt to buy extravagant presents or throw lavish parties for our friends. It would be enough to put a record album or a gaily wrapped pair of gloves under the tree.

Much to my surprise, on Christmas morning my husband gave me a present that, to this day, remains the most treasured gift I have ever received or will probably ever receive. It was just a $10 piece of costume jewelry from Sears – a turquoise oval in a gold-tone metal setting with a matching metal chain. Yet, when I opened the little felt box I felt as though I had been given the most precious piece of jewelry on earth. I remember taking a moment to catch my breath and wipe a tear from my eye before hugging him and whispering, “Thank you so much.”

What made the gift so special was the fact that it was completely unexpected. We were a couple of hippies – he with long hair and I with granny glasses. We rarely wore anything more dressy than a flannel shirt and moccasins, and our idea of a great dinner was chunky soup poured over a bed of white rice. Yet, in my trembling hands was this tiny piece of mainstream romance. It almost seemed out of place around my neck. To say the least, I was floored.

Many Christmases have come and gone, along with many wonderful gifts. My marriage has come and gone as well. But in the memory chest I keep on the shelf of my closet is a small felt necklace box. Inside is a metal chain, dulled with time, and a metal setting naked since its small chunk of turquoise was lost years ago. It is no less precious to me today than it was 27 years ago. It still brings tears to my eyes when look at it. Thank you so much, Pete.

Laurie Olson is a Dayton resident.