Boomer Memories – The 3 Greatest Gifts I Have Ever Received

Wrapped Gifts arranged on a table

The 3 Greatest Gifts of My Baby Boomer Lifetime

I have received a lot of great gifts in my lifetime, but there are three that standout to endure the test of time and memory to become the greatest gifts. Curiously, one each of these three come from the three women in my life; my mother, my wife, and my daughter. Also interesting to note, two of these gifts were not holiday gifts, and the one that was, was centered around Fathers Day, rather than Christmas or a Birthday.

Greatest Gifts # 1 – The Stereo System

The first of what I consider one of the greatest gifts I have every received came from my mother. Over the years this memory has grown in fondness, particularly when viewed through my own eyes as a parent.

It was around 1975 or 1976. This baby boomer had started listening to music as I reached my pre-teen years. 8-track tapes were the latest rage, and even as a kid, I could send off and get anywhere from 8 to 12 albums for a penny. Yes, courtesy of the Columbia House Record and Tape Club, I could tape a penny to my order form and weeks later, a box of new 8-tracks adorned my door step. Of course I had to buy an additional six or eight tapes at the regularly high price, and I had to mail in the decline mailer if I didn’t want what they offered, otherwise they would ship it automatically.

Still, it was great fun, and I satisfied my contract a few times and mailed in for more, getting both record albums and 8-track tapes to start my music collection.

An all-in-one 8-track player, AM/FM receiver, and record player like this proved to be on of my greatest gifts.

All of that music was pointless however without some way to actually play the music, and that’s where my Mother came in. We saw a unit similar to the above in our local K-Mart ad circular one day. I don’t recall the price exactly, but it was well more than I could afford immediately. I had planned to save for it, I did after all have a paper-route, but my Mother genuinely surprised me one day, probably the same day we saw the flyer, by bringing it home.

It was a glorious gift that gave me hours of wonderful memories for many years, and even better memories later as an adult. It was truly one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. I don’t recall if I ever paid her back or not. I’d like to think that I did, but as a parent, we often lose track of those “loans” to our kids once the problem has been solved, or when a lesson or great memory is established.

Greatest Gifts # 2 – The Stick-Shift SUV

I love cars. While I’ve kind of moved away from my real love of classic cars, I still love cars of all types. Many years ago, after I had sold the VW Beetle I had restored and passed my current daily driver on to one of the kids, it was time for me to find another vehicle. I knew I wanted an SUV, but wasn’t quite done scratching that stick-shift itch I still had, left over from the Beetle.

Flipping through a dealer ad that came in the mail (circa 2003 or so), I saw an ad for a Mazda Tribute SUV, but with a 4-speed manual transmission. This thing was a bit of a unicorn. Certainly back then a stick-shift was more prevalent, but in this vehicle configuration, not a very popular option for an SUV. Mazda had teamed up with Ford to create this Tribute/Escape vehicle, and others. Years later I ended up with a modern, Ford Escape Titanium with a 2.0l turbo, which was a fantastic vehicle.

The Great Ones are Often Surprises

What makes this Mazda Tribute one of my greatest gifts is the way we ended up with it. I had mentioned to my wife that we should go look at this vehicle when I got home from work. We did just that. I drove it around, and of course…loved it. I loved how high the SUV felt, and of course driving a stick again was a blast.

After the test drive, we got back to the salesman’s table, and my recollection is that both he and my wife were particularly pointed in their questions. It wasn’t just, “what do you think?“. It was more like, “So, would you like driving this every day?” and, “Would you be really happy with this vehicle?“. I didn’t really understand the unusual slant, but yet they were still pretty normal questions, and of course my answer was yes to both.

At that point the salesman handed me the keys and said, “OK, it’s all yours. The paperwork is already done, your wife came in earlier and took care of it.

Whaaattt? I looked around a bit bewildered, already tearing up, and my wife was just smiling. Sure enough, all we had was a little wrap up to finish and I was out the door and on my way with the vehicle of my dreams. She had come in earlier, drove it, and purchased it, with the contingency of course that I wanted it. Truly one of the greatest gifts ever!

After a few of years of stop and go rush our traffic, the heavy clutch and 4-speed tranny begin to take their toll on my patience, particularly in the evenings coming home from work. Having put a lot of miles on the vehicle by then, I now needed tires, brakes, and a new left leg. It was time to trade it in. It was tough saying goodbye to that car, and I suspect my wife was a little bit hurt, but it was time for a change.

Gift #3 – Fathers Day

To this day, I can hardly tell this story without getting emotional, though it has been more than a decade now. The backstory here is that this Greatest Gifts entry started with me, and ended with my daughter.

Throughout much of her school age years, I packed my daughter a sack lunch. This was an actual brown paper sack lunch, not a fancy lunch pack or cooler bag, or any of that. Nearly each day, I would write an encouraging note of some type. Phrases like You are amazing, Have a great day, and Study hard, I love you were the norm.

These notes made me happy, and they encouraged my daughter, and made her happy. I didn’t think I was leaving a legacy or anything, I just wanted my daughter to be full of confidence and assurance that she was beautiful, special, and loved dearly.

It STILL Makes Me Cry

Even today, writing about this again, I am moved to tears as I recall that Father’s Day, probably her junior or senior year in High School, when she presented me with a 3ft. x 3ft. poster board, covered with a blue background, with 75 or so of those messages that she had saved, all glued on in an artsy fashion.

Over the years she had torn off and saved those messages, and presented a bunch of them back to me in the form of this poster board. I immediately framed it, and unlike the first two greatest gifts, this one is still in my possession…and still make me cry.


Of course, as we can see upon reading this, the material items themselves, while wonderful and special in their own right, are not what makes these gifts great. It is truly the thought that counts, and for the women in my life, their thoughts were all about love, and that love is immortalized in the memory of their gifts to me. This gifts are only surpassed buy the greatest gift of all time; the birth, death, & resurrection of Jesus Christ to pay for our sins.

lunch bags on a table, one of them features writing, accompanied by an apple.
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