Cool, crisp mornings have arrived, and along with that, comes the wonderful aroma of pumpkin and cookies in our homes. Yes, it is that time again, the holidays. With Thanksgiving upon us, there is no doubt that as you head out for pie crusts and stuffing fixings that you are bombarded with holiday décor, gift sets and even the man in the red suit. If you are anything like me, it also means that you have put off thinking of gifts for far too long, and now the fun but anxious task of finding the “perfect gift” for the ones you love has arrived.

There is nothing quite like the perfect gift. Most of us remember opening that one thing we longed for; whether it was a 10-speed bike or those coveted diamond stud earrings we received from our loved one. Most of us do our best to recreate that magic each year for the ones we love, and why not? It’s a wonderful feeling; from finding that one special item, to wrapping it in pretty paper and anticipation, to the sweet satisfaction of seeing the surprise and sheer joy on the recipients faces. For the majority of people, that perfect find, is more often than not our favorite part of the holiday season. Sometimes though, we get so caught up in what we are giving that we lose sight of why we give.

As part of that majority, I spent my young adult life trying to make Christmas in our home magical; especially since being military we weren’t able to see our families often. It wasn’t easy on a lower enlisted budget, but we did our best. Then, as for all military families, it happened; the first deployment, and the first of many holidays that my soldier would miss. It was also the first time as a spouse I was posed with the question, “What should I get my soldier?”

So I did it all; sending over decorations, tasteful goodies, gifts I found on those lists you see of the perfect gifts for deployed soldiers.

However, for my husband — and please keep in mind every soldier is different — all I did was further remind him of all the precious life he was missing during this usual festive time for us. I had no idea that my “perfect” care package contents made his 18-hour work day (because yes, they still work on Christmas downrange) that much longer and the void of missing home that much deeper.

Everything is a learning experience during deployments, and that year we learned what was important to us and it subsequently changed the season of giving for our family.

I learned that for some military families like ours, while it’s appealing during the holidays to make up for the disarray that is our lives by elaborate over-the-top gift giving, that no gift or monetary items are more meaningful than us being together.

I learned that sometimes the best gift is as simple as beef jerky and homemade cards, and that appreciating each other’s presence when we are privileged to be together for special occasions, like Christmas, far outweigh the G-Shock watch you’ve been eyeing. As a gift giver and a military spouse, I learned instead of gifting what I think my soldier needs, that sometimes one can give a little peace on Earth by protecting them from the precious moments being missed and that the perfect gift is supporting them while they are away and asking what they truly need.

Nichole Kitchen is a Herald correspondent and 17-year Army spouse. Contact her at

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