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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Special Gifts

Posted December 13, 2011

What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received? I will give a gift to the person with the most interesting answer – a copy of my new CD “A Midnight Clear – Christmas in Mitford.” It includes a special cover designed by best-selling author Jan Karon who also chose the title for the album.

My cousin Dr. Mark Williams of Grand Rapids, Michigan sent me a wonderful gift last week – a ballpoint pen he crafted from olive wood. Mark bought the wood from a distributor who buys it from olive farmers in and around Bethlehem. This particular piece of wood is believed to be at least 1500 years old judging from the grain. Here is the rest of my cousin's story:

“There are lots of groves in the Mediterranean world that have trees that are probably 2000 years old. The Greeks have a saying that olive trees never die, and that's almost true. Near Athens there was a tree that the locals called Plato's olive tree, because it was near the Academy and was so old. It was right by the road, and one night the bus from Thebes ran off the road and knocked the tree over. The trunk is now in a museum somewhere (what I wouldn't do for a few board feet of that wood!), but they did not dig up or grind the stump. Sure enough, it sprouted again the next year. By now it is probably producing olives again.

Olive growers regularly prune back their trees after the olive season is over (usually in December or January in that part of the world); the trees are cut back pretty radically. Unproductive trees are cut off at the roots, which is where a lot of the wood I use comes from. So, while I cannot guarantee that the wood in your pen was there when the angels sang their glorias, there is a pretty good chance that it dates back to the Roman era.”

It’s a beautiful pen and I will cherish it. Thank you kind cousin!

17 Comments

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  • sillyauntdi Dec 15, 2:31 p.m.

    The Christmas I was 9 (1977) was special for many reasons. I was very sick and in the hospital 16 days leading up to Christmas due to a ruptured appendix. I had nastiness all through my system due to that unneccessary body part! I was released from the hospital on December 23. I had already had visits from Ronald MacDonald and received some collector plates (that I still have). But, the ride home was the best present I could have received from the doctors and nurses. Christmas day, I unwrapped presents just happy to be home. The day eneded with a trip to the movies with my dad to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I will never, ever forget how my family wrapped around me that year. They never let on how scared they were and it wasn't until I was much older that I understood just how sick I really was. Their love and protection were the best presents ever!

  • kapa1125 Dec 15, 11:32 a.m.

    It was one of my granddaughters baby doll and she put a picture of herself on it and gave it to me so she would always be with me.

  • mommymatters Dec 14, 11:04 p.m.

    The most meaningful gift I ever received was when I was about 15. I always felt bad that our mantle was full of sports and dance trophys of my older sister and brother. I felt like I never excelled at anything. So my brother and sister went in together and surprised me with a beautiful trophy with my name on it that said BEST ALL AROUND. I felt very, very special.

  • meruncc13 Dec 14, 5:19 p.m.

    The most meaningful gift that I got was from my husband a couple of years ago. I had told him of the fun days that I had when I was with my high school orchestra in the woodwind section (2nd Flute) He had given me a card from a music shop but I didn't put two and two together until Christmas morning. Of course I need to take some lessons to get some of my ability back, but I still cherish that flute and play it when I can.

  • bjgupton Dec 14, 3:02 p.m.

    My favorite "gift" was of time, not something material. When I was a little girl, we used to go Christmas tree hunting. We would go hike around on some land that belonged to relatives, looking for the perfect cedar tree. There was a mistletoe tree there too and we would get mistletoe. This was a time I really looked forward to being with my dad and my family, this was in the 60's, can't do that now...... special Christmas memory.

  • sandtran36 Dec 14, 10:29 a.m.

    moppie, that is a very sweet story! Thanks for sharing!

  • moppie Dec 14, 7:51 a.m.

    My most memorable Christmas gift came the year I turned 13. Our family has always made a very big deal out of Christmas and spending it with family and opening our home to those who had no family nearby. My Mama and Daddy always made sure that our Christmas mornings were special before everyone else arrived later. It had been a rough year...after all, I was 13. haha. Chubby, pimples, a bad haircut, etc...I wasn't feeling too pretty or special that year. My Daddy, who had a marshmallow heart under that very gruff Navy-man exterior, obviously saw me struggling to adapt. All the presents had been opened and I was helping Mama and Mamaw get everything cleaned up when he dropped a small box in my lap. I opened it to find a pretty butterfly ring with small rubies (my birthstone). But even more beautiful was the note attached, "to my sweet caterpillar who is becoming a beautiful butterfly. Stay as sweet and good as your are on the inside, and the outside will eventually catch up".

  • brian5beth Dec 13, 6:45 p.m.

    My daughter studied abroad (a college program) and toured some Biblical lands. While there she messaged and said she'd never look at the book of Corinthians the same again, as she had picked some poppy seed in Corinth and placed it within the pages of that particular book. She knew that I was jealous, as I have a passion for all things about Him. She was there, and, well, I was here...in Apex. Once home she had gifts for everyone, T-shirts, purses, and even some perfume for me. Then she said she had one more gift. She pulled out three small, smooth, gray, very ordinary-looking rocks and said, "Here, Momma, these are for you." I was thinking, well, okay; no one's ever given me gray rocks. It was what she said next that still brings tears to my eyes even as I pen this post to you, "They're from the field. I got to visit the place where they believe David killed Goliath with a small stone, and these stones are from THAT field." All-new value on the "ordinary", now treasured stones!

  • dianebearden Dec 13, 5:06 p.m.

    I was a single mother to two sons. I didn't have alot of money but through different groups they got toys. My biggest fear was food. My oldest brother who was married with two sons of his own and making a good living decided he could help. christmas was at their house. Under the tree was a HUGE box and very heavy with my name on it. In the box was canned things, toliet tissue, and several other things. He even bought meat that he packed in his freezer and fresh fruit and vegetables in his fridge. I was over come with emotion. I will never forget that wonderful gift that was given from the heart. He is no longer with us and birthday coming soon. I miss him so much. I love you Bill( my brother).

  • NCCaniac Dec 13, 4:40 p.m.

    Christmas of 1978, I was in high school and my brother was in middle school. Our dad, a Navy chaplain, was deployed on the USS Saratoga over the Mediterranean Sea. At that time, without e-mail, etc., correspondence went back and forth either as written letters or recorded verbal "letters" on cassette tapes. Two weeks before Christmas, we got a tape from Dad along with an envelope containing about $250 (MUCH more than we EVER spent on family presents!). On the tape he said he had been saving it up so my mom, my brother and I could go to Disney World for a few days and stay in one of the hotels on site....something we had never done before. (We did not know that they are usually booked up 6 months or more in advance.) We happened to call right after someone canceled and were able to book a room for three days and two nights! We missed having Dad with us, of course, but were really moved that he had been essentially not spending anything in various ports so we could take that trip.

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