by Michael Kabel

    Strange to think, but by the time most of us become legal adults, we will have celebrated, to one extent or another, no less than eighteen separate holiday seasons. While not all of those are clear in the memory - some because we were too young, some because they weren't particularly memorable, or some for other reasons (you know what I'm talking about) some stand out as particularly happy. 

    There is a special resonance in the mind of a happy holiday season, and even in the recollections of the deadest winters a lovely Christmas or Chanukah shines like a white star in a cloudy night sky. If that sounds sentimental, then so be it. I believe, as do many others, that a good Christmas is worth three dead winters, and even the memories of poor or mediocre holidays are lost in the brightness of the good. We remember times in our lives for their emotional impact, and while it may sometimes be true that bad memories leave a stronger aftertaste than happy ones, it’s also true that good memories sustain us through bad times. In that sense, every bad memory is suffused with something good. 

    Of course, gifts act as touchstones for many holiday memories. We remember a particular Christmas, for example, as "the year I got my first bike," or, "the first year I didn't believe in Santa Claus." Those memories sometimes take up all the space in our minds regarding a particular event, and remain as touchstones. On the other hand, some gifts evoke memories that in turn lead us "back in time" to the happy events of the Christmas to which they are related. These gifts are keepsakes in the truest sense of the term, because they are in a way like keys to the powerful memory centers of our minds and spirits. 

Such keepsakes don't necessarily have to be the most expensive gifts of a particular year, however. I know someone who still has the dime store stuffed giraffe she received for her 7th Christmas. Another friend of mine, a man with children of his own, has kept the metal piggy bank he received from a favorite uncle for over twenty years. 

Gifts from siblings are also a popular keepsake, especially for younger brothers and sisters in their formative years, who crave their older sibling's approval and affection. These gifts may be simple - they may even be homemade - but they retain the glow of arrival in someone's estimation, the sense that they've finally managed to impress their role models. That's a powerful totem to carry into adulthood. 

So gift-givers, especially siblings, godparents, and even grandparents, should consider "memory gifts" carefully, so that they remain fresh and treasured by the recipient. They make memories, after all, and memories are the bright light that shines for years to come.