The older I get the more I understand that the most precious things in life are not material goods. The holiday memories that make me smile the most have nothing to do with gifts; instead, one of my fondest memories has to do with an empty box... actually several empty boxes.
When I was young, the Christmas Eve celebration was always at my house. I looked forward to Christmas Eve even more than Christmas morning because I knew my maternal and paternal grandmothers, my paternal grandfather, my aunts, uncles, cousins ? everyone ? would crowd into our carefully-decorated home. It would be so crowded that most of us had to sit on the floor to open gifts.
My paternal grandmother and grandfather would load up their vehicle with presents for everyone and make a three-hour drive (usually in a snow storm) to our house. Every year my grandfather would have a special gift for someone. We could always count on someone getting a carefully wrapped box in a box in a box in a box ? with absolutely nothing in the final tiny box. It was always a surprise who would get the special gift, and it was an honor of sorts to be selected as the recipient.
Of course we all knew someone was getting the box in a box in a box, and that the final box was empty (except for maybe a note like "Gotcha!"). Regardless, every year, every box was opened and everyone had a good laugh.
Then came the year my grandfather wasn't at our annual Christmas Eve celebration, and I realized just how much that silly box-in-a-box tradition meant to me.
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I look forward to reading about your special memories.