Growing up, I spent a lot of time (well, it seemed like a lot to me) helping my Grandma Anderson (Dot) bake, especially at Christmas. I learned the proper rolling technique for buckeyes; I learned that making a red cake was really hard (and you better only request one on your birthday); I learned that everybody makes mistakes and burns a batch or two. These lessons were truly gifts - gifts of time well spent with someone I love.
After Nick was born and before I was pregnant with Dylan (so, yeah, a very small window), I asked my Grandma Elliott for a special birthday gift. Must've been for my 32nd birthday. Now, given her married name (Elliott), you probably wouldn't guess that she's 100% Italian (her parents were both off-the-boat - her maiden name was Nuzzo). You may also not be able to guess that she was the best cook in the whole world (sidenote: I typed "is" instead of "was" and had to take a little break to shed a few tears.) :( She made a lot of awesome dishes but, hands-down, my favorite is her meatballs and sauce. I set aside an entire day so she could teach me...and she did. It wasn't easy - I had to guess on all of the measurements because, frankly, I'm not sure she owned a measuring cup (this would also be why she was a fantastic cook...but just a mediocre baker). I have that recipe typed up and saved in multiple places. I even sent it to my Elliott family with my Christmas cards one year!
At our Slippery Rock house, we had wonderful neighbors - all of them! But the family across the street BECAME family to us. We attended their youngest daughter's graduation party and all of their children kept saying, "Dad's bringing out the pizza any minute!" "Dad's pizza is almost ready!" And on and on. In my head I was thinking, "Seriously? Is it DiGiorno or what?" And then I tasted a bite. Sweet Mother of Abraham Lincoln, it was amazing! Like, restaurant-quality. Came to find out that at one point it WAS restaurant-quality! They used to own an Italian restaurant. Makes sense - I would have driven across town for a slice. One fall day, they brought over pizza out of the blue. I sent a quick thank you email that read: If you give a neighbor a pizza, they eat for a day. If you TEACH a neighbor how to make a pizza, they're grateful for life! That year, on Christmas Eve, they taught me how to make it. Every Friday night, I think of them while I'm rolling out dough. It's a gift that was given to me and that I pass on to my children in the form of memories.
Obviously, all of my favorite non-tangible gifts involve food (I swear, it's my Love Language!) but EVERYONE has something they can pass along. This year, I would encourage you to give an experience. A lesson. A memory. It's a way to stay a part of someone's life even when you're not anymore.