I Wish You Gifts of Time

I have always been an overly excited gift giver, taking my time to choose just the right gift. I remember when I was a young child, I’d ask my grandmother (affectionately named Mim by her six grandchildren) what she wanted for Christmas. She always gave me the same answer: “Honey, all I want is your time.” Of everything in the world that she could want or need, she always asked for time. This answer confused me; how could she want time? But I never pressed her to tell me something I could buy for her. Thinking about it now, I suspect that even as a child I instinctively knew what she wanted.

As I have grown and my family has evolved, I understand her answer more and more. Day-to-day life seems to get busier and busier with work, children’s activities, social engagements, and various causes that draw our attention. I constantly complain of needing more time—but not the time that Mim requested as a Christmas present. I look for more time to complete tasks, to cross off items on my seemingly endless to-do list. During the holiday season, it is easy to lose track of time; to fear that we will not have enough time for all of the preparations.

Yet, what I need is the time that Mim asked for, every year, without fail. For it is not the stuff, not the completed to-do lists, nor the constant running that make our lives complete, but the time we spend with others, the time we spend with ourselves, and the time we spend remembering that make our memories and fill our hearts.

When I reflect on the life and legacy of Fred Rogers, I can’t help but think that he would agree with my grandmother’s wish. Throughout his work, he stressed the importance of people being together, and of focusing on the moments that may not be center stage. I am drawn to Fred’s words when he talks about the out-of-the-spotlight moments:

“The longer I live, the more convinced I am that the important moments of life rarely happen center stage. What truly nourishes our hearts and changes our being are most often far from the spotlight.”

When my grandmother asked for my time, she didn’t ask for a center stage, spotlight moment. My fondest memories are of the spontaneous visits, the games of red buttons, making dinner together, or watching golf. Sure, there were plenty of spotlight moments, but it was not these celebratory moments, but the ordinary, simple times that meant the most.

Our family has changed since those years when my grandmother asked me for time, but I have never forgotten her words. As I watch my children and my own parents grow older, I can’t help but request the same gift. I find that when I think about my Mim, who passed away nearly eight years ago, my mind is drawn to time. I celebrate the time we spent together that led to beautiful memories; I grieve the time we did not spend together that resulted in regret; and I wonder about the time that could have been. Now, as I get older, and family asks what I would like for Christmas, my first response is time. I ask them to help my family build memories, to experience life with us, and to help us all share more time together.

For this holiday season, I wish you time—time to make memories with the ones you love, time to contribute to the memories of strangers, time for taking care of yourself, and time for reflecting on the year’s blessings and challenges. At the end of the day, time is the greatest gift we can give and receive.

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  • Katie Paciga / 22 December 2016 4:37

    Beautiful piece, Dana! Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  • Ev / 13 January 2017 3:30

    Yes, we parents and grandparents echo that wish, for time with those we love. I hope you had many moments like that over the holidays!