Photo: History

As I sit in my office writing an article on gifts, I realize that I am almost literally surrounded by gifts I’ve received from family, friends, and clients. As I get older I realize that my office is a great place to store these items, in part, because I’m not sure where I’d display them at home. My wife and I love each other, but our tastes aren’t 100 percent aligned. I am fond of a motif that can best be described as “baseball stuff.” She seems to like art.

And not to pat myself on the back, but I think I’m an easy guy to buy for. I like baseball, American history, and books. That puts me about two mouse clicks on Amazon away from a gift I will almost certainly appreciate. And given my affinity for reading, books about baseball or history effectively check off two boxes.

And as I look around I realize that much of my office décor is made up of thoughtful gifts. One of those is not a gift in the traditional sense, since I had a little to do with arranging it. A few years back, I wrote an essay for a baseball magazine called “Spitball.” The essay talked about a Reds game I’d attended with my dad when I was 12. In his zeal to see Tom Seaver pitch for the Mets that night, dad endured what turned out to be a pretty serious heart incident, which hospitalized him for two weeks. After the essay got published, I called in a few favors from a pretty well-connected friend, who managed to get Seaver to autograph the magazine, along with a really nice note. My very thoughtful wife then surprised me by arranging the signed essay, the note, and the magazine cover inside a beautiful frame that hangs just behind me. Every time I look at it, I am reminded to be grateful for my dad, my friends, and my wife. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

Not far from the Seaver collection is a large reproduction of a Saturday Evening Post cover illustrated by Norman Rockwell. During WWII, Rockwell illustrated four covers depicting the “Four Freedoms” that Franklin Roosevelt identified in a January, 1941 speech. The four are the freedom from want, the freedom to worship, the freedom from fear, and the freedom of speech. The freedom of speech cover depicts a New England citizen speaking up at a town meeting. The speaker is wearing a flannel shirt and work pants. Seated near him are two men in suits listening intently. The point, I think, is that the First Amendment applies to all of us, regardless of class or wealth.

In any event, several Christmases ago, my kids walked into the house with an enormous package. And I had no idea what it was. I’m usually pretty good at guessing (and also great at letting my kids know what I want), but this one stumped me. It was the framed freedom of speech poster. I do a lot of work on First Amendment matters, so this was a really special gift. And every time I look at it, I am grateful for where I live, what I do, and especially for having somehow raised four really thoughtful kids.

And I could go on – from the small but meaningful drawing I received recently from my granddaughter, to autographed baseballs from some of my favorite players. If every picture tells a story, then every gift paints a picture. And that is what makes each one special.