On being ... my favourite things

By Ingrid Sapona

Yes, it’s that time of the year… The time when many struggle, wondering what to get different people on their Christmas list.

Knowing that many can use a little guidance in this department, Oprah Winfrey does her bit to help with a show she calls: “My Favorite Things”. During this show she “reveals” dozens of things she just loves, many of which, she reminds the audience, “would make great gifts”. The show, which is always one of the highest rated shows of the season, usually airs in late November (as it did this year) – just in time for holiday shopping.

Though I like Oprah and often tune in to see what she’s talking about, this is one episode I purposely avoid. Truth is, I find the whole thing a bit distasteful (conspicuous consumption comes to mind) -- $398 handbags, $1,900 diamond earrings, $29 mail-order macaroni and cheese? I also find it a bit irritating that with the title of the show, Oprah’s co-opted -- and commercialized -- the idea behind one of the sweetest songs from the Sound of Music.

So, in keeping more with the spirit of Rogers and Hammerstein’s song, I offer my list of favourite things, in no particular order -- and definitely not in rhyme.

Coincidentally, two things mentioned in the song make my list: sleigh bells and snowflakes. Just the other day a friend and I were driving somewhere and, as I was scanning through radio stations, intent on avoiding those that had already started playing Christmas music, I heard the unmistakable sound of sleigh bells. Despite the fact that my friend and I agreed we didn’t want to listen to Christmas music, I couldn’t switch the station. There’s something about the sound of sleigh bells that always brightens my mood and puts a smile on my face.

As for snowflakes -- well, they’ve always been a favourite -- regardless of whether they’re on my nose or eyelashes (or anywhere else). And, as far as I’m concerned, the bigger the flakes the better. (I’ve often wondered whether being born in Buffalo was just a happy accident vis-à-vis my love for snow, or the reason for it. Who knows…)

I also love unexpected little bonuses -- like discovering that the milk you just poured in your coffee didn’t curdle, despite the fact that the “best before” date on the carton was yesterday. Or glancing at the clock from bed and realizing you can roll back over because it’s not time to get up yet.

Though I don’t see them that often (I’m an early riser, but not that early -- besides, my condo faces south-west), sunrises are on my list of favourite things. Though sunsets are often quite beautiful, I like sunrises better because they always seem ripe with possibility.

Laughing so hard that tears roll down my face is also on my list. I think what I like most about this type of laughter is that it’s so unpredictable. I can’t name anything that’s guaranteed to provoke laughter strong enough to make the tears roll, but when something does -- I relish it!

Peace and quiet also has a place on my list. I was reminded of this the other day when I was walking home and I heard the sound of a child screaming in the distance. It was a blood curdling scream that grew louder as I walked. Eventually, as I came within view of the little girl, I saw that she didn’t appear to be in any danger, which was a relief.

As I got closer still, I noticed a woman that was probably the girl’s mother standing nearby, holding another, smaller (thankfully quiet) child. As I passed the woman, I heard her frustrated plea: “Shhhh. Please hush. Please…” Hearing the child and the woman’s weary reaction made me realize how precious peace and quiet can be.

Those are just some of the items on my list of favourite things. Though not things one can make a gift of, I think you’ll agree, they are gifts all the same.

As you ponder what to give people this Christmas, go ahead and check out Oprah’s list, and the malls, and catalogues, and on-line stores -- I’m sure there are lots of neat things to be had. But remember that for many, their favourite things can’t be bought. Once you realize this, I think you’ll agree your time might be better spent making a list of what you might do, or be, for the people on your list, instead of thinking about what you can get them. And, if you then act on that list, I guarantee you’ll end up high on their list of favourite things.

© 2010 Ingrid Sapona


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