Memorable Christmas gifts are not things

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
December 25, 2011

What Christmas gifts do people find memorable? Childhood toys? Gifts they gave a spouse or parent? I thought it would be interesting to know how people from apparently different walks of life might react to that question.

There wasn't an Erector Set, tea set or TV set on the list. Every response was about people. Memorable gifts are, well...they are memories.

Johnny Majors describes his greatest Christmas gift as the birth of his brother Joe on Christmas Day in 1936. “I love all of my brothers and sisters, but Joe was my closest friend and confidant throughout my entire life.”

Liz is retired and lives in north Knoxville. Like Majors, her favorite childhood Christmas was the year her younger brother was born. She says it was the only Christmas she remembers her mother not beating her.

Not all memories are pleasant, obviously.

In typical Type-A fashion, Pilot Travel Centers CEO Jimmy Haslam is looking forward, not back – but his Christmas answer was also about family, not stuff. He’s excited to spend today with his family, which now includes three (almost four) grandchildren.

Crystal Newman used to work at the Forks of the River Pilot before moving to Royal Brass and Hose. Her childhood Christmases sound like the one her old boss is having today: four generations of family together, with her great grandfather presiding from his rocking chair.

Hugh Ray Wilson is a boat captain and raconteur. For 30 years Ye Olde Steak House served a Christmas season meal for kids at the Church of God Home for Children. One year a little girl asked Santa if he would be coming to see her. “Of course,” Santa replied. “You didn’t last year” was her response.

Sometimes Santa makes mistakes.

Singer/songwriter Paul Bobal (aka Tall Paul) recalls his father, secretly near the end of a two-year fight with cancer, finding the strength to host his sons for a vibrant Christmas week of man stuff. Three weeks later they gathered again for his funeral.

Another guitar player, Keith Urban, also grew up in the south: the southern hemisphere. His fondest childhood Christmases were summer days on the beaches of the eastern coast of Queensland with his brother and parents.

The Reverend George Doebler and his wife Nancy spent years serving the mentally ill and sick on Christmas. Gourmet’s Market manager Lisa McCoig spent her childhood Christmas vacations with her grandfather and other Knoxville Police Department officers organizing toys for what would later become Knoxville’s Toys for Tots.

Now those are Jesus Christmases.

Spencer Streno is a senior at Bearden High School. When he was seven, Santa didn’t leave a present under the tree. Instead, he left clues around the house, creating a scavenger hunt. Spencer loved the game; he doesn’t remember the toy.

WBIR news anchor Robin Wilhoit also received her most memorable Christmas gift as a seven year old. It wasn’t something under the tree that made a lasting memory. It was Santa’s boot prints in the fireplace ashes.

We joke about kids playing with their toys for ten minutes, and then spending the rest of the day playing with the box. Live is a verb, not a noun. Today, be the box.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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