This year my mother-in-law decided that she wanted to have a real Christmas, with a tree and presents and everything. She, my father-in-law and my husband are Quakers and so they normally don’t observe a very typically American Christmas. This year, however, we put up a tree on Thanksgiving and drew names to determine who would give whom a present–even being very indulgent, the rule was that everyone would get one present and one present only.

My family, however, agreed to no such thing and I would love to meet the person who could change my mother’s mind about anything, let alone presents. Her package arrived on Christmas Eve and the next morning my sister and I opened our few precious gifts. Mom is not able to get us as much as she would like (i.e., the world) and we know that, and we know how hard she thinks about each gift and we appreciate them in inverse proportion to their adherence to social norms. Mom’s awesome like that.

But what this story is really about is not one gift versus several, or big consumer-y Christmas versus quiet Quaker Christmas. It is about thoughtfulness and sincerity. These are not commodities. They cannot be purchased in any store, nor can you pay someone to teach them to you. They are not rarer than pearls because “rarer than pearls” is a way of saying very expensive.

My sister gave me the best, most precious present I’ve ever received. When I read the gift my sister gave me, I cried openly, unashamedly, joyfully. My sister for several months has been practising writing, drawing and inking a comic. She is fantastic, a skilled observer of life and a thoughtful artist. If she isn’t published by 2015, I’ll eat my Yoda scarf.

Her gift to me was a comic of the first post of this blog from Monkeypuppet’s point of view. It is beautiful and sweet and true and the final line is, “I like tea best when it’s just tea.”

But that’s only a small part of the present. The bigger, scarier part is that she wants me to continue writing the adventures of Monkeypuppet. To collaborate with her. For me this Christmas has been filled with handmade treasures, and I have knitted or crocheted every day for at least two weeks. I even felted something for the first time. But this gift, which is also a challenge and a commitment, is sincere and is like sincerity. It cannot be purchased. If one is open to it, it will grow. It can be scary and daunting, and in exactly the way that means it is worth doing. And, as the painting of Monkeys practising that my husband is doing shows, it can touch those around us and stir them to respond in kind–sincerity with sincerity, creativity with creativity. All of which points to something too big and profound to be called a Christmas present-and to something exactly big enough and profound enough to be called a Christmas present.