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brent's music box
It’s happening again. An avalanche of Christmas catalogs and holiday e-marketing campaigns is filling our inboxes and mailboxes in an effort to convince us of a lie: that we can buy our way into the hearts of others. One of the upsides of the Great Recession has been that fewer people are falling for it. We’ve learned that we can live even better without many material things we once considered essential.

Today’s post is only a reminder to myself (and to you) not to succumb when the pressure to buy, buy, buy starts building. Looking back over 53 years of giving and receiving, the most enduring gifts are the ones steeped in love.

That’s why my mother saves a little red, white and blue flower brooch we bought her on Mother’s Day, even though flowers don’t naturally grow that way.

It’s why I keep a little elf given to me at Christmas by my cousin Robbie when we were four and five.
Millie's bell

On a windy November day, it’s why the sound of a rusty old chime on my back porch makes me feel warm and loved, even though I’m only valued by what I’ve done lately in some corners of the world. It was a wedding present from a friend who gave me something even better—the unconditional love of a grandmother.

And it’s why I cherish the little music box (above), which has been sitting on my dresser for the past 40 years. When we were kids, my oldest brother bought it as a birthday gift with money he earned mowing lawns and selling newspapers. Occasionally, I wind it up and listen to “Lara’s Theme” from Dr. Zhivago and reflect on the thoughtful boy that still lives in him, though sometimes it’s tough to spot. A lifetime of adult responsibilities and worries has hardened him around the edges, but I know there’s a soft center within, in part because he makes a point to call me every year on my birthday.

I hope today’s post fortifies you for the onslaught of holiday marketing. Despite what we’ll hear, the most valuable gifts we give or receive this season won’t cost a penny. I’m thinking about small, sentimental gifts for my friends and family. What about you?

Live is short. Wear the good stuff.