The Best Gifts

. December 1, 2015.

I’m not a big fan of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any of the shopping days leading up to Christmas. Though I enjoy giving gifts, the problem is, “What do you get year after year for loved ones who have everything they need?” Even buying presents for Jessie, my 10-year-old daughter, is becoming more of a challenge. No Jessie, you won’t be getting a horse for Christmas. 

What to buy? Rush to purchase. Stand in long lines. Time to wrap. Too few presents.  Too many presents?  Big credit card bills in January.  More long lines to return gifts. I’m not trying to impersonate Scrooge, but “Bah Humbug!” We all know the holiday season is about love, peace and goodwill. Why do we drive ourselves crazy?

 Speaking of love, and crazy, after a relaxing night of tennis a few weeks ago, I stopped for dinner at a local restaurant. Through the years, I’ve heard waitresses use many different terms of endearment, like “Darling,” “Hon,” and “Sweetie.” However, when the 20-something waitress delivered my double steakburger and said, “Here you go, my love,” I thought I heard her wrong.  “My love?”  Heck, I’ve been married over 30 years and I don’t even get a “My love, would you please take out the garbage?”

I enjoyed my meal, and then paid with a credit card. When the waitress handed my card back, she said, “Here you go, my love.” I gave her a 20 percent tip.

Of course, I drove straight home and playfully bragged to my wife, Mattie, that a woman more than 20 years my junior called me “my love” – twice.  Mattie rolled her eyes, not a bit concerned, and told me to get over myself.              

Ah – age. Yes, time zooms by quickly. Which brings me back to Christmas shopping.  Do I want to waste my precious minutes fretting over presents? No! The best presents aren’t tangible anyway (though Jessie thinks a very tangible horse would make a fantastic gift). I’ll take family hugs in the kitchen with the dog sandwiched between Mattie, Jessie, and me. Massaging Mattie’s feet, propped on my lap, as we laugh together at a TV show. Holding hands during walks. Hearing kind, supportive words – daily terms of endearment like “my love”… from my wife. These are the best gifts, ones that fill my days with joy.  

With that said, I agree that it’s nice to have a few presents to open, especially for children. Last Christmas, I printed out a couple of pages from the Save the Manatee Club and let Jessie select a manatee to adopt. She chose a 3-year-old named Squeaky, the youngest manatee in the adoption program from Blue Spring State Park in Florida. I thought she’d enjoy this, because we visit the park to look for manatees at least once a year. I was surprised, however, that it turned out to be her favorite gift. Go figure.

Love, peace, goodwill and helping an endangered species. They all beat standing in long lines and trolling online stores, and cost a lot less than stall rent and food bills for a horse.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy Holidays! 

If you’d like to learn more about Save the Manatee Club, please check out their website at
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44
He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer
Follow Patrick at and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.