by Jill Peters

Whoever said, “It’s far better to give than to receive” never received the perfect gift.  I’m sure my mom did most of the gift shopping in our family when I was growing up, however there were a few times when the gift had obviously come from my dad.  These gifts weren’t expensive.  The perfect gift doesn’t have to be.  And sometimes it may not seem like a great gift until many years later, when you can appreciate it either for its usefulness or for the memories it invokes of the person who gave the gift.  In this case, what made these gifts so perfect is that whatever the reason was then, my dad wanted me to have them and now every time I use them, I think about him and smile.

My dad was a craftsman.  He built homes and later, after he retired, he made potting benches and turned table bases on a lathe.  He had an attention to detail and an interest in making something that would last.  He got this from his dad, my grandpa, who would teach you how to be patient by giving you opportunities to be patient with him in his pursuit of perfection. My dad’s garage was organized and his tools each had a place, so he knew where to find them when he needed them.  He had a stroke more than 10 years ago and couldn’t be out in his garage.  But if you needed to borrow a tool, from his chair in the living room he could tell you exactly where that tool was…"in the garage, in the black workbench, 2nd drawer down, in the back, on the left, under the pliers with the red handles".  I always loved that.  My dad passed away in April of this year.  I miss him every day, and there are many times a day that I think about him...something I’d want to tell him about, ask him how to do, or get his opinion on.  He was a great dad.  And those gifts he gave me as a kid are more special now than ever.

The first gift I remember my dad gave me was a red Swiss Army Knife. My dad was someone who either had the right tool for the job, or he could figure out a way to get the job done without any tool at all. This Swiss Army Knife had a lot of tiny tools in it.  I was recently at an event with my daughter, and someone needed a knife.  Nobody had anything, but I pulled out my Swiss Army Knife.  It made me smile to think about my dad at that moment.  He always had what you needed.  And he would have enjoyed that event, especially seeing how capable his granddaughter was.  She is a lot like him.  If she doesn’t know how to do something, she figures it out and then does it well.

The next gift I got from my dad was a little 2-sided backpacking salt and pepper shaker, less than two inches tall; one end for salt and the other for pepper.  My dad always carried one of these shakers in his travel man-bag and he thought it was something important.  As a kid, I thought that was a funny thing to carry with your toothpaste, deodorant, and Old Spice aftershave, but I love that he had it if he needed it. He was prepared for any seasoning emergency.  I’m not really someone who salts and peppers, but that little shaker means so much to me, because it was a gift from him.

My favorite Christmas gift from my dad was a red toolbox he gave me when I was in high school.  He took a job in Alaska and wasn’t home much during my senior year.  We talked often on the phone, recounting every soccer game, and strategizing about how to win the next one.  He had been a soccer coach, but for me, he was my greatest fan.  This particular Christmas, some gifts had been opened and I was told there was one more to open, that hadn’t arrived yet, and could I go check the front door.  When I opened the door, there was the toolbox with a little gift tag in the corner – “A Surprise for Pickle, From Dad” (Pickle was one of my many nicknames).  As a high school girl, I thought it was a weird gift to receive.  But I carried that thing from place to place as I moved through my life.  Sometimes it held tools.  Sometimes it was my junk drawer.  Sometimes it was empty and in the garage behind a pile of stuff.  But when I began making leather goods by hand, I needed a place to put all my leatherworking tools and knew the perfect place.  Now, I think of my dad every time I open it to work on something.  It takes a lot of tools to make leather goods by hand.  There is a specific tool for every job, and my red toolbox keeps everything in the right place, so I know where to find it.  Just like my dad always did.

So, as you are doing your shopping this holiday season, don’t focus so much on the gift, but rather focus on the person you’re giving it to.  Make it something meaningful, something that will make the person who receives the gift smile and think about you every time they use it or see it.  And enjoy your time together. Because that’s the most important gift of all.