What’s On Your Wish List?

Last Friday evening, my 6-year-old niece Iris and I were sitting in rush-hour traffic on I-40, listening to the radio and bobbing our heads to the beat of “If I Had $1,000,000” by the Bare Naked Ladies.

“Cathy, what’s on your holiday wish list?” she asked out of the blue.

I turned down the volume on the radio.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “I haven’t really thought about it yet. What about you? Have you made a list yet?”

Thinking she was about to launch into an extensive catalog of gift ideas for herself, I prepared to memorize the list to share with various friends and relatives who might need inspiration in the coming weeks.

“No,” she said. “Not yet. But I really want to know what YOU want.”

So I started making my list. And what followed was a highly amusing interrogation about Crate and Barrel casserole dishes (“Do you like the green one better? Because green is a really popular color right now.”) earrings with dangly beads (“Do the beads hang down from the bottom or are they all the way around the circle like on the lamp in your bedroom?”) and umbrellas (“What do you mean you don’t have an umbrella? Everyone has an umbrella!”).

I’m not sure why I was surprised that Iris wanted to talk about my wish list and not hers. Children are amazing in their capacity to think about, care about and worry about others. I can picture her now: explaining to my sister that she needs to go to Nordstrom where, no, Aunt Cathy would NOT rather have those silver earrings, Mom, she really wants the rounds ones with the red dangly beads. She will be adamant — a militant protector of my wish list — because she loves me and wants to make me happy.

We should all be so lucky our lives to have advocates for our hopes and dreams — whether they are as small as a casserole dish or as big as a career goal. To have people in our proverbial corners who encourage us to ask for what we want, to reach for our dreams and to make big things happen. Because they love us and want us to be happy.

Love isn’t about presents, but it is about gifts. Gifts of time and kindness and honesty and comfort. Of shared experiences and laughter and support. Much of our magazine this month is devoted to holiday shopping — for kids, parents, teachers and others in your life — but there are important gift ideas to be found in our articles on family traditions (page XX), creating a will (page XX), and living a simpler life (XX), as well. These gifts of family togetherness and security are far more meaningful than casserole dishes and earrings. And even though I’ll be delighted to unwrap an umbrella from Iris on Christmas morning, I’ll be even happier knowing that I am a part of her holiday traditions and memories — now and forever.