Love and a log cabin
Marisa Zeppieri-Curuana, 39, has been suffering from lupus, an incurable and sometimes debilitating autoimmune disease, since 2008. (Here are the signs of lupus you should know.) A few years ago, following a year-long flare-up during which she was hospitalized 12 times and spent most of her time in a wheelchair, her husband, Mickey, was hunting for holiday gifts. He was eager to cheer and inspire Marisa, who was just beginning to be able to walk once again—albeit with some difficulty, given the heat and burning sunshine of Southern Florida, where Mickey and Marisa make their home. That’s when Mickey came up with what Marisa will forever remember as the holiday gift idea to beat all holiday gift ideas: He whisked her off to a gorgeous log cabin in a quiet corner of Maine for a 10-day Christmas retreat.
“Sitting by the fireplace, reading, watching old movies, standing on the porch with hot tea as the snow came down, watching the animals, being invited by the locals to experience their Christmas festivities,” she recalls. “It wasn’t an adventurous vacation by most people’s standards, but for us, it was a beautiful time to reconnect, get far away from the hospital, calm our bodies, sleep, and, most importantly, spend quiet time together.” It was exactly what Marisa needed, and her husband totally “got it.” So did the cabin’s owner, who found herself inspired—by Mickey’s love for Marisa and Marisa’s strength—to let them stay a few extra days.
Marisa is the founder of LupusChick, a not-for-profit aimed at supporting and encouraging those with autoimmune disorders. The Lupus Foundation of America reports that 1.5 million Americans are living with lupus, and 16,000 new cases are reported each year, but when actress and singer, Selena Gomez publicly revealed her battle with the condition, millennials began to take note. Here’s why autoimmune conditions are on the rise among millennials.
A quilt of many colors
Eighteen years ago, Terry Grahl of Taylor, Michigan, was pregnant with her fourth child—and her first and only daughter. “Money was very tight,” Terry recalls, but when her mom called to ask if she’d like to go shopping at the local fabric store, she couldn’t say no because she was finding herself craving some Mom-time. “I remember walking around, gazing at all this beautiful fabric but knowing I could never afford any of it if I was going to be able to afford Christmas gifts for my little boys.”
Well, Terry’s mom must have known what Terry was thinking. Leaning over, she whispered to Terry, “You pick any fabrics you like. It’s your Christmas gift from me.” Terry’s eyes filled with tears as the cart began to overflow with bolts of fabric, but not because Terry was planning on making herself a pretty dress or a pair of curtains for the kitchen. Rather, Terry’s mom’s generosity had inspired some holiday gift ideas in Terry, and it didn’t take long for Terry to figure out what she was going to do with all that fabric.
“I was going to make my first quilt,” she explains. “Every night when my little boys went to bed, I would work on this queen-size quilt. With every stitch, I thought about all that my mom had done for me and my siblings over the course of our childhood, during which we were always battling homelessness, but Mom somehow managed to fill our lives with love and make everything okay.”
On Christmas day, five days after her baby girl was born, Terry handed her mom a gift box. Inside was the quilt she had sewn, shedding cathartic tears of love with each stitch, from the fabric her mother had given her as a gift.
These are the superhuman things only moms can do.
Julia Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, is no longer an “expat” (she lives in Incline Village, Nevada), but she knows a thing or two about the struggles of living far away from loved ones. She also knows a thing or two about the gifts that go along with those struggles, including an actual gift she received from her mother that came just at the right moment to form a much-needed connection between her past, her present, and everything that lay in the future.
Julia grew up in Kansas but at 35, was living in Perth, Australia, for work when she became a mother for the first time. When the Christmas season arrived, although Julie was thrilled with her new daughter and was growing accustomed to life in Perth, she couldn’t help but feel a bit lonely for her own mother, as well as her childhood home and the comforts of the past. That’s why it was so meaningful when she opened a package shipped straight from Kansas and saw that inside was her own baby outfit from 35 years ago: dress, bonnet, and cute little socks made out of pink Swiss Dot (a sheer cotton fabric that is embellished with small dots). Along with the outfit was an old, faded picture of Julie wearing the outfit. On the back of the photo was the inscription from her mom: “Baby Julia, Russel Springs, Kansas, 1958 — Cute!!!”
The nostalgia the gift awakened was powerful and healing and brought Julia so much joy that 25 years later, at age 60, she still thinks of it as “the best Christmas gift ever.”
Here are some more tips on giving truly meaningful gifts.