Our 1st Christmas Together, and the Surprisingly Simple Gift That Moved Me to Tears

When my husband and I first began dating many years before, he had just quit his job at the company that also employed me. And that fall he started a master’s program in Shanghai, which only offered him a paltry stipend every month.

Translation? He was mostly broke.

That didn’t trouble me, though. I had a good job. And besides, I was really happy that Jun was working towards the career of his dreams. I didn’t mind being the “breadwinner” in our relationship, because Jun was so extraordinarily generous and loving in so many ways, and that was something you could never put a price on.

As our first Christmas together arrived that December, I never pressured Jun to shower me with lavish gifts. When he asked what I wanted, I insisted I didn’t need anything and told him to save his money instead.

So of course, he bought me something anyhow. (I shouldn’t have been surprised. Jun famously borrowed money from his friend just to treat me on our first official date together.)

As it turned out, it was just a small, inexpensive token — a guide to the birds of China, with full-color photos, the ideal gift for his bird-loving girlfriend.

But that wasn’t the only gift. He also presented me with what looked like a scroll. But after a more careful study, I realized it was just a piece of paper rolled up and tied with a piece of string. What was he doing giving me this?

As I unraveled the paper, I discovered a series of hand-drawn comics scribbled on it. While the stick figures made it clear Jun’s calling was decidedly not in art, one thing did become apparent — how much Jun loved me. Because there on this humble piece of paper, he had drawn a simple comic commemorating how we became a couple, from that humid train ride to Yiwu to the unforgettable evening by the West Lake when he professed his true feelings for me.

How did Jun even think to draw this for me? And how did he not feel even slightly self-conscious over doing it? All I know is, I remember feeling a rush of tenderness for him at the gesture. It was the stuff of made-for-TV movies, the kind of thing you imagine only happens to someone else.

I’m pretty sure a tear of gladness — or two — fell across my cheeks that day.

Those hand-drawn comics would become a regular from Jun while he was a student. And I came to treasure every one of them.

Have you ever been surprised or moved by a gift from someone?

P.S.: Need some last-minute gift ideas? Have a look at this year’s holiday gift roundup to peruse the best of my advice on gifts, including The Top 6 Gifts Sure To Please Your Chinese Family.

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4 Replies to “Our 1st Christmas Together, and the Surprisingly Simple Gift That Moved Me to Tears”

  1. I was in Xiamen in early December a few years ago. i was surprised to see so many Christmas decorations and “Merry Christmas” signs everywhere.
    Here in my big Canadian city, not that many decorations around stores and office buildings. Instead of ” Merry Christmas”, we have ” Seasons Greetings” signs. sometimes, i really feel PC has gone haywire in this part of the world.
    BTW. i am not a christian, but respect the religion.

    1. Thanks for the comment nelson. Most major Chinese cities do seem to prefer “Merry Christmas” at this time of year and not “Seasons Greetings” — much like your city, back in Cleveland where I’m from the stores tend to prefer happy holidays or seasons greetings.

  2. That’s such a heartwarming story. The guide to the birds of China is the kind of thoughtful gift that can only be given by someone who knew you well and cared to make the effort to give you a gift you would love. But the hand-drawn comics were even better. I can see why they would bring a tear to your eye. Merry Christmas, Jocelyn.

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