One thing I've always hated about Christmas shopping, was trying to figure out what to get people. My parents were easy enough; they liked (or pretended to like) anything we bought them. My middle brother wasn't too difficult, either: I always managed to find a good sweater or shirt that suited his personality and color schemes. My oldest brother, however, well, that was a different story. I never knew what to get him. If I asked him what he wanted he'd either say "Nothing" or worse, "A bowling ball" or "Golf clubs", which was worse than him saying "Nothing" because they were items way too expensive for my cashier's wages.
As I grew older I learned that getting gifts that mean something to the recipient was the ultimate Christmas Shopping experience. Christmas 2009, I must admit, was the easiest year I've ever had in terms of deciding what to get. My dad had been living with me for three years, and he was getting to that point where reflection on the life he'd lived was a common topic of conversation.
One day I was searching Facebook for childhood friends, and cam upon a FB page for "Colonial Village Elementary School" where I went as a child. On that page was a link to the FB page for the Lewiston #2 Fire company, where my dad spent many years as a volunteer firefighter. As I was browsing the photos on that page I saw a T-Shirt for the station members that I thought dad would just love. So I FB messaged a member of the Fire Hall listed on the page. I asked if I could purchase a T-shirt for my father and explained that he had been a volunteer firefighter there and that the Fire Hall played a big part in my family's life when we'd lived in Niagara Falls. The response I received from the member and her husband was they'd try to see if any t-shirts were left and if so, they'd send one. They could promise a fire hall patch either way.
About a week and a half later a package came with a t-shirt and a patch. I wrote to the fire hall's contacts I'd written thanking them and asked how much to send them and where. I was told to offer it too my father as thanks for his service. Knowing the Fire Hall and it's members still hold on to the values of the Village in which I was raised was a great Christmas Present in itself.
I wrapped up the T-shirt and patch for Christmas. I also searched the Fire Hall's webpage and created a little booklet about the Lewiston # 2 Fire Department's history. I couldn't wait to give him his gifts! As another pleasant surprise, I was browsing Barnes and Noble that same week and stumbled, quite by accident, upon a coffee table book on Firefighters, published by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. It is a fascinating book on the history of firefighting and some really great photographs.
As it turned out, Christmas 2009 was to be my father's final Christmas on this earth, as he'd fallen ill about a month later. He was so proud of his firefighter gifts! And, though I've always been excited to give gifts to others, no single Christmas drove home the Reason for the Season for me than Christmas 2009.
Thank you, Lewiston #2 for giving my father a gift he was truly proud of. (P.S.: I still have the t-shirt and wear it occasionally).