Favorite Things

To celebrate our latest app, BabyLit Christmas Carol Calendar, we are sharing stories about our favorite Christmas gifts of all time. Today, staff writer Chris Wrenn shares his.

I grew up poor. The clothes I wore were hand-me-downs from my brother, and those had come from a local charity as hand-me-downs. My family didn't get gifts, except for my sister: my mother made a dress for her at Christmas, Easter, and on her birthday, and those were her clothes for the year. We never had a tree.

One year, when I was five, my mother took me to the local fabric store to pick out the material for my sister's holiday dress; it seemed she took forever pouring over florals and plaids, stripes and solids, so I played and explored the way kids will. As I wandered around the front of the store I found a bowl of jingle bells — the gold ones that you might see on decorations — and I loved them. They were shiny and made a beautiful sound, but they were five cents each and I knew my mother would never go in for such a frivolous purchase.

Here’s a word of advice: if you ever steal, choose something that doesn’t make noise. As soon as our beat-up Buick took off, the bell I’d slipped into my pocket started to jingle. At first my mother thought something was wrong with the car, but it didn’t take her long to make a turn back to the fabric store and send me in to apologize. The clerk could not have cared less;  she told me to keep the bell, but with tears in my eyes, I set it on the counter and walked away.

I told my partner this story our first Christmas together because I have a bad habit of telling sad stories. I guess I just don’t think about it, or don’t realize that the stories are depressing until they have already come out of my mouth. To me, they are just stories, the facts that stand.

Anyway, my favorite gift of all time is a book my partner made by hand about that evening. I’m amazed at the work he put into it, and I’ll admit I cried when I went through it. I still do. In his version the story ends differently — a robot from the future brings me a gift that night.


When I opened the flaps of the gift there was a note from the robot that said that one day I would feel more loved than I could ever imagine. And there was a jingle bell.

There aren’t many things I want in the world; I like a simple life. That gift said more to me about Christmas than anything I had ever imagined, more than any purchase could say. I hope this year we all take time to share that kind of love. It matters.