Editor’s Note: D.G. Martin is unavailable this holiday season. The story below is an old favorite. 122309-gift.jpg

John Garwood brought down his apples from the mountains the other day.

He brought small sacks for some of us — and a big box full just to be doubly sure that nobody would be left out.

When you break the skin of one of his apples the sweet juice bursts into your mouth and the world is right. Somehow the apples we buy down here just never taste that good.

Eating John Garwood’s apples recently got me thinking about Christmas. And that got me thinking about all the presents I still have to buy for family and friends. And that got me thinking about how frantic the next few weeks are going to be. I started wondering if Christmas — the way we treat it now — is all that good a holiday. How am I going to get the right presents — ones that really last?

All that got me back around to John Garwood, because he really brings the best kind of present. We remember him all year long — thinking about those good tasting apples and hoping that he doesn’t forget us next year.

Who brings you the presents that you remember all year long? Earl Danieley and Maxine O’Kelley and Bob Wendell brought me tomatoes last summer. Fresh from their gardens they were full, red, soft and ripe, firm and juicy — and for just a moment — just right. Salt, pepper and mayonnaise, perhaps, or sometimes, just straight. No chef, no five-star restaurant, at whatever the price, could prepare a dish to top a ripe summer tomato from a friend’s garden. What a gift!

In spring and summer, Candy Owen’s flowers make their way to our desks and bring her garden inside. Watts Auman brings a bag of peaches fresh from his orchard. Ripened on the tree, yellow with touches of red and soft orange, giving in the hand, its smooth fuzzy skin sends up a flowery scent preparing us for the first wonderful juicy bite that never disappoints.

At Christmas time, when their fathers were still alive, Branson McRae and Joe Malamo brought wines — crafted and personalized by their dads. These wines would not wait. They had to be uncorked and sampled and enjoyed immediately. More than the hearty taste, we celebrated the old men who thought enough of others to crush the grapes with care and love, and then watch and treat them with measured attention thinking only toward the moment of our delight

Granny Wall — until she was in her 90s — brought us pecans. Picked up and packed up from her Anson County home place, put in small bags. And she giggled with us as we cracked them up and ate them.

My wife’s mother’s chocolate fudge, packed into a Christmas tin, so rich and sweet, so compelling. Better enjoyed, I guess, if it were put away and measured one piece at a time for desert each day. But it is all gone in an hour—except for its memories that bring juices rushing to my mouth at any season.

A cassette tape of lovely songs sung by a friend comes with a note. “These songs are my present to you. Your listening to them — just once — is your present to me.”

Passing into a season when holy happy feelings are always attacked by a frenzy of mechanical buying, these thoughts of remembered gifts suggest some guidelines: Give of yourself. Give real. Give simple. Give what gives you pleasure to give — and want nothing in return.

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