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Perfect gift doesn’t always need wrapping and a bow

Sat., Dec. 24, 2011

When I think of childhood Christmas memories, I go back to Kansas and my most memorable present: I’m in a little town called Mulvane, halfway through seventh grade, and I’m out generating some Christmas cash. Shoveling snow, as you might guess, for which I charge the not-so-princely sum of 75 cents.

A dollar just seems like too much, even though I probably do the best job in the history of snow shoveling, leaving nothing but bare concrete. No. Matter. What. Even if it takes me two hours.

So I ring another bell, shivering in the cold, and it’s little old lady time. Good. She’s sure not shoveling anything. I get to work and it’s an average job, maybe 45 minutes, and I think I’ll head home for lunch.

But something magical intervenes. She ushers me in, hands me slippers, and tells me to get out of my wet things. I stand on the iron furnace grate in the living room, warming my toes, while she bustles around in the kitchen. She’s obviously happy for my company and happy to make me lunch. She asks me about school and we sit down to eat.

Steaming hot tomato soup — Campbell’s, of course — and grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate.

The perfect gift.

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at


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