What's Your Most Memorable Christmas Gift?

For Jill Irving-Bishop, director of the Falmouth Council on Aging, her fondest Christmas memory was when she gave her son Brendan, now 13, this yellow lab named Max as a present eight years ago.COURTESY OF JILL IRVING-BISHOP - For Jill Irving-Bishop, director of the Falmouth Council on Aging, her fondest Christmas memory was when she gave her son Brendan, now 13, this yellow lab named Max as a present eight years ago.

While some will downplay the importance of gifts they give or receive on Christmas, for better or worse, the holiday is largely centered around the exchange of presents.

Most of those gifts will be standard fare—a new sweater, iPad or a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant—but there will be a few that stick out not only tomorrow, but for years to come. They are the type of gifts that will be etched in one’s memory, signifying all that is good, and sometimes bad, with the holiday.

So what is the most unusual present you have ever received on Christmas?

“When I was a kid my parents once gave me a purple bowling ball with my name engraved on it for Christmas,” said Joanne Briana-Gartner of Hidden Village Road, West Falmouth, in answer to that question.

The only problem? She was not a bowler, rarely, if ever, playing the sport in her childhood days. To make matters worse, Ms. Briana-Gartner said, this was not the smaller candlepin bowling ball children typically use, but the larger one with the three holes in it. “It was ridiculous,” she laughed. “It was so big and heavy.”

In an interview yesterday Ms. Briana-Gartner suspected her father, Joseph A. Briana, had picked it up doing one of his dump runs, a side job for the Waquoit resident.

Although it remained in her room for years, Ms. Briana-Gartner never had the urge to use it. She suspects it is most likely in her parents’ house, probably stored in their attic. “They never throw anything that is mine away because they think I might want it,” she said.

And for Ms. Briana Gartner, “that is the story of my strangest Christmas gift.”

A mint green, hooded, knitted bathing suit, described by Heather L. Baldic of Braeburn Court, Hatchville, as “the weirdest thing I had ever seen,” is the most unusual gift she has ever received for Christmas.

It was a gift Ms. Baldic received from her mother, Sally L. Baldic, in her early teenage years. Upon opening up the present, she laughed, “I didn’t know if it was a blanket or a scarf or a jacket. It had a zipper on the side.”

She suspected her mother purchased it in a catalog as “I couldn’t imagine it being in a store somewhere,” she said. “It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen.”

“The puppy was really little and he had a Santa hat on and I put him in a basket in front of the Christmas tree,” she said.

Despite its oddity, Ms. Baldic held onto the suit, putting it on during the year when it would rain and “I’d  run outside and do a little rain dance,” she said. That was about as far as she went with it, laughing that “I don’t think I ever had the guts to wear it in public on the beach. My mother dared me to a few times, but I don’t think I could ever do it.”

As to where it is now, Ms. Baldic said she donated it to charity “for some other lucky person to use.”

While veterinarians will argue against giving a pet for Christmas, that gift was the most memorable for two Falmouth residents.

When he was “about 6 or 7 years old,” Carey M. Murphy of Ostrom Way, Waquoit, said he received his best Christmas gift: Sam, a black lab puppy.

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“I’ll never forget the Christmas morning my father let him out of the basement,” Mr. Murphy said. “He was our first dog as a kid. I remember you’d always come home and that dog would be there with his tail wagging, even if you had a big crisis that day. He was a dog; he was always happy.”

To this day, Mr. Murphy has maintained a love for dogs and currently owns two, Nellie, 3, a yellow lab mixed breed rescued from Illinois. The other? Grady, 6, who happens to be a black lab just like Sam.

Jill D. Irving-Bishop’s fondest Christmas memory also revolves around a dog that she gave as a gift to her son Brendan eight years ago. “The puppy was really little and he had a Santa hat on and I put him in a basket in front of a Christmas tree,” she said.

That morning she remembered her son staring at the dog, now named Max, before finally summoning up the courage to go and play with him. “An hour later, after playing with him and opening up his other gifts, he finally says to me, ‘Can we keep him?’ ” Ms. Irving-Bishop of Falmouth Heights, laughed. “He knew my sister always wanted a dog and so he thought it was their puppy.”

Fast forward to the present and both Brendan, now 13 and an 8th grader at the Lawrence School, and Max, now 8 years old and 115 pounds, maintain a special bond that only a pet and child can have.

And for Ms. Irving-Bishop, the memory of that moment when her son first saw Max makes this time of year a little more special. “I just thought it would be priceless to give him a special gift at Christmas and it being so close to his birthday too,” she said, noting her son was born on New Year’s Day in 1999. “I really think it was my fondest [Christmas] memory because it was one of those moments in life like a Kodak moment for me and for him.” 

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