Personal Stories

Memorable gifts

Seniors remember favourite gifts from over the years and the emotions that came with them.

When we asked seniors to reminisce about gifts that had made a strong impact, it came as no surprise that they didn’t tell us about stuff: what they all remember is how the present made them feel.
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“I had always taken care of myself when my husband and I were newly married,” says Evelyn. “I used to freshen up before Hal came home after work. I liked clothes and I dressed up a little. I wouldn’t say I was vain, but I took pride in looking my best. It made me feel good and I like to think he enjoyed it too. But when I had three children in four years, I stopped looking after myself. I rarely put on lipstick, I took to pinning my hair up and out of the way instead of styling it and my clothes started to look shabby. The children just took so much energy that I didn’t have time for me. It also suddenly seemed frivolous to spend what little we had on new dresses and shoes. I guess I made one too many complaints about my wardrobe looking dated because one year Hal gave me an envelope filled with $20 bills and invited me to go on a shopping spree. He arranged for my sister to join me for a day in the city. He had saved a little out of every pay cheque for a whole year! We were married for 61 years. Even in lean times, he always treated me like a princess.”

“Our daughters were in their early 20s when my wife and I had our 25th wedding anniversary,” says Roy. “We weren’t the kind of family who made a big deal over these things but that year our girls had secretly coordinated a surprise party for us. I don’t know how they did it without us finding out but they must have smuggled our address book, called their aunts and uncles and our best friends and invited everyone meet at a restaurant. Meanwhile, the kids had told us they were taking us out for brunch. When we showed up, everyone was there. Surprise! I must admit I got a little misty and my wife had tears of joy streaming down her face. Most of our family and friends had come from out of town for this. It was wonderful to be surrounded by many of same folks who’d attended our wedding.”

“Does it count if it’s a gift I gave myself?!” says Dorothy with a chuckle. “When my girlfriends and I turned 39 we agreed we would celebrate our 40th birthdays with a trip to New York City. We saved up for a year. We left our children at home with our husbands, booked a nice hotel and walked for miles around the city. We slept in late, indulged in manicures, shopped, went to see a Broadway play our husbands would have slept through and ate in restaurants where our children would have turned up their noses. For three glorious nights, we felt responsible for no one but ourselves.”

“About two weeks after I gave birth to twins, we got a knock at the door,” remembers Helen. “I’d been released from the hospital a week earlier and I was absolutely exhausted from feeding, changing, washing diapers, etc. I hadn’t slept for more than two hours since they were born and I could barely see straight. A neighbour arrived with two huge bags filled with food: lasagna, casseroles, a roast chicken and jars filled with soup and chili. She had rallied our neighbours who had all cooked a week of meals to fill our fridge and freezer while we cared for the twins. I cried right there on the spot. To be taken care of like that filled me with gratitude. From that moment on, I started bringing a home cooked meal every time someone I knew had a baby.”

“One year for Christmas we surprised the kids with a trip,” says Martin. “We wrapped up a box containing a clue. When they opened it, they had to solve a puzzle to find the next clue, and so on. The treasure hunt ended with them finding four airline tickets to California and their luggage already packed. We were leaving that afternoon for a week of sunshine. They were completely shocked and we had a great time.”

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