The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

The Ultimate Birthday Present
Best Gifts Ever Received
Photo Credit: Polina Tankilevitch

This week, I’m celebrating another journey around the sun. Yes, my birthday. Frankly, I’ve never loved celebrating the day, but I’ve tried to embrace it as a time to reflect on the past year. Today, instead of diving into learnings or lessons, I wanted to share a special story about the best gift ever received.

The Greatest Gifts

Growing up, my family was always incredibly thoughtful with gifts. Especially my mom. Gifts were her love language.

When I was little, I still remember waking up one Christmas morning – running downstairs in my tiny slippers to find the present of my dreams – a Barbie Dream House. Iconic. Later in life, she’d spend months shopping to find the perfect colorful striped sweaters from the Gap or the pair of designer jeans I’d been eyeing for months. She just got me, you know?

However, it wasn’t my “perfect present-giving” mother who ended up giving me the greatest gift of all time. Nor was it even Bob.

It was my father.

Jennifer Lake Birthday Gift
Photo Credit: cottonbro

My Father, the Hero

Throughout my childhood, I was extremely close to my mother. Every day, when my brother and I got home from school, she was waiting for us with snacks and treats at our kitchen table. We would sit down at the table and talk about our days. It became a tradition, and it taught me to analyze my emotions, reflect on lessons from the day, and to communicate with her about a range of fun, tough, happy, or sad topics. Sometimes, it was all of them!

On the other hand, my Dad was a workhorse. In fact, I get my work ethic from him. He was extremely attentive to his career, rose quickly in the ranks, and dedicated himself to his professional life. My father wanted to build a better life for our family. He did… but it came at a price.

In order to build a sustainable life for my family, he spent a ton of time at work. He had long hours and days of stress-filled meetings and calls. His role was very difficult.

His long days and ongoing physical distance also translated into emotional distance from me. While he did everything in his power to change that fact, I simply went to my mom for everything. In many unintentional ways, he was left behind.

Jennifer Lake Wedding
Photo Credit: Studio This Is / We Create

My Dad

To be clear, my Dad is the BEST. He’s the funniest, most jovial person, and someone who genuinely cares about others. Like… everyone. I can barely go to dinner with him, because he’ll spend 20-30 minutes talking with the server about their life, dreams, hopes, fears, etc. Oh, and he’s a phenomenal tipper. A must!

I’ve never met someone who can single handedly win over anybody the moment they meet, like him. It’s wild. Seriously crazy. To this day, I still try to analyze how he does it. It’s his superpower.

Lastly, he’s a big believer in finding your purpose and knowing how you’re wired. He’s the reason why I knew I was right-brained in kindergarten, and a Myers Briggs ENFP by 1st grade. My kindergarten teacher had to ask my Dad how I knew I was right-brained (meaning more creative and intuitive). She was flabbergasted. Who is this child?

My Dad’s child. That’s the answer. 🙂

It’s also the reason why I was a public relations major from the first day of college. 17 years later, I’m still working full-time in the career. How? My Dad set me up for success. Early on, he taught me to understand and value who I am, what I’m good at, and how to thrive.

Oh, and I dare you to find someone with better “dad jokes.”

We’ve continued to work on our relationship. Like any parent/child connection – it’s still imperfect. However, we’ve come to an understanding of the past and embracing the future.

Sweet Sixteen

So how does this background info have anything to do with the gift, you ask? Well, I wasn’t expecting the best gift to come from him.

Sometimes the greatest gifts come the most unexpected people.

On my sixteenth birthday, my family gave me a bunch of gifts. Ultimately, I don’t remember the other items I received (most likely cash and clothes – the two main things my teenage self probably cared about at the time).

After gifts were unwrapped, my Dad sat down at the piano. The room fell silent. It was if everyone else was in on a joke that I wasn’t privy to.

You see, he’s a very good musician and singer. In fact, when he returned home from work during the week, he’d often play the piano or guitar. He also shared his love of music with me – The Beatles, Beach Boys, the list goes on and on. We’d sing, “Twist and Shout” and “The Letter,” in the car on road trips. Each of us having our own verses, notes, and parts.

He really loved playing and especially creating his own music.

After taking a breath, he started to play a new song I hadn’t heard before. Looking back, I remember the melodic harmony and ethereal notes floating effortlessly in the air. He started to sing lyrics that talked about my life to date, and what it was like to be my Dad.

As an awkward teenager, I sat stunned… shifting in my chair from side to side confused. As he sang, I carefully listened to the words, verses, and chorus.

Piano in Home
Photo Credit: RODNAE Productions

Best Gift Ever Received

The song dove into all of the aspects of my journey, but especially how proud he was of me. How much he loved me.

“You sing like an Angel and you dance like a queen, and you play the flute so sweetly, it must be a dream. You swim like a dolphin and you run like a wind, and you light up the stage in the productions you’re in. My little girl.”

During junior high and high school, I was an overachiever. My Dad often joked how everything I touched seemed to turn to gold… even when the journey took tough work.

To this day, I’m shocked (and amazed) he wrote and created a song for me and my sixteenth birthday. Furthermore, he went to recording studio to tape it for me so that I’d be able to listen to it. We even ended up dancing to it for our daddy/daughter dance at our wedding.

Your Best Gifts Ever Received

Some of the best and most meaningful gifts come from unexpected recipients. Gifts are a love language, and they can bridge relationships. I’m thankful for this gift, and I’m so thankful for my dad.

What’s the best gift ever received on your end?

For more birthday-related life lessons, visit my post from a few years back about 30 lessons that I’ve learned in my 30’s.

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View All 10 Comments

  1. A
    Annaliese wrote:

    What a special memory!! Wow!!! You have an amazing dad. 🙂

    This is such a funny one- but my favorite gift was when my parents finally got us cable TV when I was in 10th grade. I had been asking for cable for years and years, and they always said no. When I was in 10th grade on Christmas Eve afternoon, there was a knock on the door. I opened it and it was a guy from the cable company holding a cable box! I screamed since I was so excited and I think I scared him- hahaha!! I loved how my mom scheduled the appointment to be on Christmas Eve day!

    xoxo A

    Published 3.31.21 · Leave a Reply
  2. K
    Kit wrote:

    Way to set the bar impossibly high, Mr. Lake! I love this story!

    Published 3.31.21 · Leave a Reply
  3. H
    Helen wrote:

    Wow! I’m blown away by your story telling and your dad’s gift! How incredible! The best gift I ever received was for my 5th birthday. I guess I asked my parents for a dog and they actually gave me one! She was my best friend for so many years and I’m so lucky to have had my dog “Cookie” in my life.

    Published 3.31.21 · Leave a Reply
  4. C
    Caroline wrote:

    This is such a sweet and touching story. What a beautiful gift too. When I was growing up my Dad had a very demanding career so I can relate to what you were talking about. Your Dad sounds like a lovely person, and I am not surprised because you are a lovely person! I hope that you had a wonderful birthday, and I wish you a wonderful year ahead! XO, Caroline

    Published 4.1.21 · Leave a Reply
  5. S
    Sonya Hochwalt wrote:

    I was so touched by this post , you are so lucky to have a dad who examples what leading and loving his family is all about. I am lucky too, my own father is a self made successful man by all measures . Whan I was 13 , sadlu my parents divorced . My mother had been the caregiver to that point , my father working long hours and largely uninvolved in the daily task of raising us. We were surprised when my mother sent us to spend weekends with him, what would we do at his new place all weekend? It seemed odd at first , but quickly it became a way of life . He would plan fun activities eventually he would bring along “a friend .” At first , I didnt even realize he was dating women, but they all seemed genuine, kind and fun . What I did not know then was that my dad was quite the catch! At any rate, after a year or so we became accustomed to this new way of life , we had our favorites , personally i was inspired by a young wonderful nurse he dated . I eventually would choose nursing to be my own profession likely because of her influence . My dad continued to work alot and his relationships with his “friends “ seemed casual to us. One Christmas when i was 14 he took me shopping to enlist my help in selecting gifts for his female friends . My grandmother worked for a large department store ao we headed there for a sale and the benefit of her employeee holiday discount. My dad hurried us to the jewelry counter and found a sale on necklaces , he selected two, with my approval. He then suggested we must find one more , the most beautiful one , for his best girl. I knew just the one, a silver chain with a small silver bell with a tiny diamond placed in its center . It was not part of the sale, more expensive, but my dad smiled with approval. I inquired , was this one for Joan ( the kind pretty nurse I admired )? He grinned and said , you will have to wait and see ! Christmas came and with it started the chaotic process of unwrapping our gifts . Nearly, to the bottom of my pile gifts , basking in the happiness of receiving a new pair of converse tennis shoes ( all the kids were wearing them) , I opened a final beautifully wrapped small box . As I lifted the lid to my surpise inside laid the diamond bell necklace. Oh no, I thought, I have accidentally opened a gift intended for someone else . As my eyes lifted they met my dads and he exclaimed “the best necklace for my very best girl!”. That day and always , my father has always made me feel I am a priority in his life. I think showing his tender or emotional side was not his strong suit, but when he did , he hit it out of the park. I wish all daughters could receive that kind of message from their own fathers . I am so thankful for my own!

    Published 4.8.21 · Leave a Reply
    • J

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sonya! I’m so happy for you that you had this wonderfully foundation experience with your dad. Sending you lots of love!

      Published 4.8.21 · Leave a Reply
  6. T
    Tiffany wrote:

    The best gifts, to me, are experiences. This song was an unforgettable, priceless experience!

    Published 4.8.21 · Leave a Reply
  7. r
    rion wrote:

    There are many beautiful events here. The stories touched my heart. I also read some beautiful stories on this site which are very sweet. You can read these best gift ever stories.

    Published 7.14.21 · Leave a Reply
  8. M

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    Published 3.7.22 · Leave a Reply


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