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The Gift: For Better or Worse

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FOR BETTER OR WORSE, we’re rapidly approaching a number of holidays that these days seem to be measured more in economic terms than in sincerity. Christmas and Hanukkah (presents), New Year’s celebrations (house gifts), Greek and Ukranian holidays (more presents) and, before you know it, Valentine’s Day (another present).

As we grow older (and by varying degrees, richer), some of us fall into the habit of measuring love by the size of the box it comes in. Isn’t it funny, though, that the gifts we keep for a lifetime are the ones that fit in the top drawer—the scrap of paper with crayon drawings and misspellings, the little piece of driftwood with a date scripted on it, the ornament of foil and feathers made by a young nephew. These are the reminders of the people, places and events that have meant the most to us, those memories that we hold closest.

Above is a picture of a pie server. It’s been used to parcel out pieces of pie at just about every special dinner we’ve had with family and friends for more than 35 years. It gets rinsed and wiped and put back into the big ceramic jar that holds most of the other kitchen tools on the counter. It’s smaller than the other tools and we usually have to dig it out from the tangle of stainless steel and plastic that engulfs it.

I cut that tool out of a scrap piece of cherry, shaped it to fit a wedge of pie, gave the handle a slight curve, rubbed and sanded it smooth, sealed it with oil. It was a Christmas present to her when we were still young in our relationship, presented without a box, just a piece of ribbon tied around the handle. It was a gift measured in hours and effort, not dollars, a simple tool for a specific task, something I made that she finds useful. Still, each time I watch her lift a piece of pie onto a plate with it, it’s like we’re holding hands again .

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!