When I was 8 or 9 years old and my brother Chip was roughly 7, we had a dynamite act. If not the first or only, we were definitely the greatest roller-skating comedy duo in the world. We had a pretty slam-bang show, complete with theme song, prat falls, and high-speed chases -- all on wheels! We were the top-earning stars of our basement theater. We called ourselves Junko & Crumb. To this day I don't know why those were our stage names, and I don't quite remember which of us was Junko and which was Crumb -- but it doesn't really matter.
We've since grown up a little bit and retired the roller skates. Chip is doing grown-man things like becoming a dad and teaching himself to brew his own beer, and he thinks it's a little weird that his sisters habitually break into song at any moment.
This Christmas Chip drew my name in the family Secret Santa. He knows I love learning about and trying different wines. I'd been expecting to receive a bottle of his Christmas brew, so I thought I knew what was inside the heavy box he handed me...But nothing could've prepared me for this:
He selected two of my favorites - Pinot Noir and a good Tuscan red -- from the Winery at Olney, a new concept store in our neck of the woods in Maryland. He had our talented brother Caleb design custom labels, which the winery graciously agreed to let him use rather than their in-house designer's options. I was floored!
This is one of the things I love about my family, and about Christmas with my family. We try to give gifts that are personal (preferably with a generous dash of nostalgia). Of course we usually ask for each others' "lists," but we often don't limit ourselves to them. There are always wonderful surprises on Christmas morning, and stories to tell about what inspired a certain gift or where it was found and why it made the giver think of the recipient, etc etc etc... Honestly, though they may be small in size or few in number these are the most meaningful gifts, and the ones that actually teach me the most about the nature of a gift. It is something entirely undeserved, unlooked for, perhaps unnecessary for survival; something extended from a delighted heart with an open hand. And rather than trying to outdo or "one-up," all one can - and should - do is receive it wholly, with thanks.