The Best Gifts (Maryanne Fantalis)

When I was growing up, my parents had a very clever way of getting some sleep on Christmas morning. My mother hung our stockings on the doors to our bedrooms and Santa always left one present on the floor below the stocking. A real present, not just a little stocking knick-knack or piece of candy. Like all kids, we'd wake up early but because of that gift, we'd have something to do -- and something to share with each other -- for at least an hour before waking up the parents.

Santa -- I mean Mom -- was pretty smart.

One year, Santa left the BEST present outside my door: a Spirograph.

This is my new Spirograph. I bought it again two years ago. Because that's how much I love this toy.
I love it so much I haven't even used it yet. 
As you can see from the picture, Spirograph enables you to draw perfect spirally-swirly-starry shapes by putting a pen in one of the many holes in one of the many circular shapes and dragging the pen repeatedly -- and carefully -- around and around inside (or outside) the hollow circle guide. It's amazing. The possibilities are almost endless. And if you're meticulous -- and I am -- you can try to produce every. single. combination. 

I got so lost in this magical toy, they had to call me down from my room to see what else was under the tree. Who cares? As far as I was concerned, I already had the only gift that mattered. 

The only imperfection of Spirograph is its impermanence. The tiny wheels get lost over time. The pens run out of ink and are hard to replace. It's surprising, actually, how few pens will fit through those tiny holes. Believe me, I tried. 

So I'll tell you about another very BEST present from my childhood, and that was a big yellow teddy bear waiting for me under the tree.

My memories of finding him are fuzzy enough that I think I was four or five years old at the time. The fact that I named him Butterscotch Strawberry because he's yellow and pink also leads me to think I was pretty young. I was giving horses in my stories literal names like "Brownie" and "Chocolate" around that time. Also, I remember trying to sleep with him in my bed and feeling like he took up the whole thing, like another me. 

This is Bubby. Still fuzzy after all these years.
He lost his ribbon long ago, but he's still quite handsome.

I wish I had access to my dad's photo albums because I know there's a picture of me that Christmas morning. In the picture, Bubby (as he soon came to be known) is brand new and looks dashing with his bright red ribbon, and his tongue is still stuck properly to his face (nowadays, it half-dangles down, but I think it gives him personality!).   

You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Bubby has absorbed a lot of tears in his life. He has heard a lot of secrets and given a lot of hugs. His leg is a great pillow for napping or reading. He's a perfect best friend.

Do you have a favorite holiday gift? One that you can still remember vividly to this day, no matter how long ago it was? Tell me about it in the comments! 

December is a month for giving, and in that spirit, I'd like to give back some of what I've received so generously from other authors: time. Along my journey to publication, I've been helped by authors who talked to me about their journeys, answering my questions and giving me their insights. I'd like to return the favor. I'll choose at random one person who comments on this post, and I will answer five emailed questions for that person about anything related to writing and publishing. 

Whatever holidays you celebrate, may they be joyous!


  1. I love your spirograph story, Maryanne. Reminded how much I didn't like playing with a spirograph... I didn't have your patience! PS: If you pick me for your donation, I will pass it on to one of my SCBWI Ohio Central South members :)

    1. I couldn't figure out how to get the Spirograph to work. ;)

  2. Great stories, Maryanne! I, like Jody, had no patience for Spirograph. Our mothers must have been related, because mine too learned that trick with the stockings/1 gift to keep us from pestering her to get up until at least 5 AM!

  3. I loved Spirograph!!!! Bought my youngest one a few years ago and was as excited as he was LOL!

  4. I'm the easiest person in the world to shop for because all I ever want are Starbucks gift cards. :) When I was younger, I think my favorite gift was a Caboodles makeup case, though most of the stuff I put in there was costume jewelry because I wasn't allowed to wear makeup yet.

  5. Spirograph was such fun! And you're right; I had several. Colorforms was another gift I got lost in for hours.

    1. I loved Colorforms too! And I was very disappointed when my kids were not as delighted as I was...

  6. I remember the year we got Spirograph! We played with it until the ink ran out. :) And yes, Patty...COLORFORMS!!!


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