Favorite gift I’ve ever received
Colonel David Fox is Fort Bragg’s Garrison Commander. His favorite gift started an argument between him and his wife. It began around Thanksgiving when he went to find his copy of the movie poster “Green Berets,” the John Wayne hit. He’d carefully stored and moved the beloved poster from post to post for eight years and finally was ready to get it framed. But the poster was gone.
“She and I went back and forth a couple of times on it. ‘Where is it?’ ’You lost it.’ ‘No, you lost it.’”
“It” showed up on Christmas morning matted and framed with a brass plate inscription that reads “My Silent Hero; Love, Lynn; Christmas ’93.” The gift now hangs in Col. Fox’s office. So, which is the better gift, the framed poster or a wife that knew what you wanted even before you did?
Julie Spears is best known as one-half of the team that brought designer jeans to town. Her boutique, High Maintenance, is the fashion frontier in Fayetteville.
This mom of four says her favorite gift started with a trip to see Santa two years ago. She was taking her then five-year-old to ask Santa for what he wanted most but the conversation ended up being about her. “He said could you please bring my mommy a doll house because we don’t have any girl toys for her to play with.”
Spears got the dollhouse and says she and her husband play with it still.
For former Fayetteville Mayor Marshall Pitts, Christmas came early in 1970. His baby brother, Myron arrived around Thanksgiving. He says, “I have another brother named Miguel who is between us in age, and Myron’s birth solidified my role as the official big brother of the family. Of course, my brothers are much bigger and sassier than I am now but that’s another story . . .”
Nasim Kuenzel is a partner with her husband, Chris, at Kuenzel Architecture and co-owner and manager of the Cameo Art House Theatre on Hay Street. Her favorite gift came didn’t come down the chimney - it was the chimney. The chimney that came along with the house she and her husband renovated and moved into the day after Christmas last year. Kuenzel says that was “really fun.”
The Reverend Dan Alger, pastor of The Church of the Apostle, has this lovely memory of a special Christmas gift.
“When I was in seminary in Pittsburgh, I had responsibilities at the church where I was working that kept me away from NC on Christmas Day. After the Christmas Day service, my wife and I jumped in the car and drove from Pennsylvania back here. That special time in the car with my wife with no gifts, no reindeer, and no distractions was the best Christmas gift I ever received.”
Bill Hurley and Sheriff “Moose” Butler think back many years to their favorite gift, but their answers are as swift as if they opened them last year.
“I was eight, it was my first bicycle I shared with my younger brother,” said Hurley, former Fayetteville mayor and former member of the General Assembly.
“It was a Western Flyer.” Sheriff Butler doesn’t remember the exact color of his bike, but he immediately quotes the brand. “Kind of the top rung of bicycles,” he describes it.
Hurley’s bike was “red, of course” and both bikes were hard to come by for the boys’ parents. Butler remembers that his mom bought his on credit at Western Auto and continued to pay it off long after Christmas. Hurley got his bike during World War II when metal was scarce. He says the red bike probably had some wooden parts. But more important than the actual bicycles was the new world they opened up. Said Sheriff Butler, “It was our way of transportation for the younger people. We didn’t have cars.”
Favorite gift I’ve ever given
Julie Spears’ baby brother also got a bike for Christmas, a dirt bike. Spears said he was 8 or 9 years old and the only one in his group of friends who didn’t have one. But the gift wasn’t from Spears and her siblings. He was told it came from Santa Claus. So why is it the favorite gift she’s ever given?
“All the older children, we decided to give up a lot of what we’d asked for so he could have that,” she said.
Fayetteville Mayor Pro-tem, Lois Kirby, gave her dad a new hobby for Christmas. It started with a mini-smoker she bought on a whim at Wal-Mart.
“He enjoyed that more than any other gift I’ve ever given him,” she remembers. “He cooked for us every weekend. He actually became a pretty good cook.”
Kirby’s father, now gone, was born on Christmas Day.
State Representative, Rick Glazier, can’t decide which is the favorite gift he’s ever given. One Hanukkah, he and his two children gave his wife two Labrador puppies to fill the sad void left by a dog she loved and no longer had. Zoë and Shadow are seven years old now and lovingly called “the twins” in the Glazier home.
Another Hanukkah, 12-year-old Philip Glazier was recovering from surgery and not feeling very festive. So his parents planned a last-minute detour on the way to visit relatives in Florida. Glazier said his son figured out the surprise from the back seat when he caught sight of a Disney World billboard.
“He had this huge grin and all his pain from the last week and the dizziness and everything went away and we spent the next four days there. He just kind of recovered instantly.”
For Glazier, it’s a gift he gave and continues to receive. “I can still look at his face and see that beaming smile.”
Speaking of beaming, faces weren’t the only things shining in our Christmas memories – diamonds, the kind you can’t really afford, always shine brightest. For Colonel Fox, it was a tennis bracelet; for Sheriff Butler a surprise engagement ring. It’s the one still shining on his wife’s hand 44 years later.
The Reverend Alger remembers that when he was in middle school, he wrote a song for his older brother, thanking him for his sacrifice in helping raise him after the death of their father.
“I’m sure the song wasn’t very good,” the Reverend Alger recalls, “but it was the best I could do and it meant more than a sleeve of golf balls.”
The best gift
Everyone on our list agreed on one thing - time with friends and family is their favorite holiday tradition. The Hurley clan, all 16 of them, celebrates Christmas two days early just so everyone can be together. The Glaziers, just the four of them, reserve a night before Thanksgiving to attend a concert together. Lois Kirby says it’s a good holiday when her house is so full she runs out chairs. And Nasim Kuenzel says as long as her family is home, she doesn’t need any other gifts.
“I’m always thinking that I’m glad I’m not one of the ones who’s missing someone really bad,” she says.
Colonel Fox knows about that. He represents many soldiers spending holidays away from family. He remembers spending Christmas 2001 in the desert when he got an unexpected chance to wish his wife and kids a Merry Christmas. “The stars aligned and the satellites aligned and I was able to make the call.”
Finally, the friends and relatives are an even more welcome gift if they come bearing food. Marshall Pitts says, as a single guy, the holiday spread is reason to rejoice.
“I love trolling for food. During the holiday season, food is plentiful everywhere and it’s my opportunity to take advantage of the surplus!”
The Reverend Alger loves the Christmas Eve service at his church. He had this to say about the season.
“So much of our culture celebrates Christmas without remembering the reason we celebrate. Christmas has become flashy, and shiny and warm and comfortable – but the first Christmas was humble and quiet – the greatest present of all wrapped in very unassuming wrapping paper. God himself took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. There were no ribbons or bows or billboards or big sales, just a baby, a poor family, a manger, some shepherds, and a whole lot of promise. In all the hubbub of the Christmas Season, the Christmas Eve service lets us pause and remember and be a part of Christmas as it should be - focused on the one who came to save us.”