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The Best Presents



For the last two months, my son, Graham, and I have been making a weekly trip to the cemetery. On Friday mornings, he attends Crow's Path, an outdoor education program that meets at the Rock Point property in Burlington. It starts at 9 a.m., which means we have an hour or so together after bringing his sister, Ivy, to school.

Rock Point is just down the road from Burlington's Lakeview Cemetery, a Victorian-era burial ground filled with ornamental trees and winding paths that lead to spectacular views of Lake Champlain.

It's a beautiful setting for a morning stroll and also the perfect place to teach 7-year-old Graham about the rich history of the area. When he and I walk there, we often stop at the grave of General George Stannard, who lost his right arm leading an attack on Fort Harrison during the Civil War. Stannard was one of the brave Vermonters who played a crucial role in the battle of Gettysburg 150 years ago.

Lakeview is also the resting place of Warren Austin, a Vermonter who was the first U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Painter Charles Louis Heyde is buried there, along with local notables Lawrence K. Barnes and Louisa Howard.

But Graham's favorite stop at Lakeview is a granite bench we discovered one day in the newer part of the cemetery. It's engraved with an inscription I've heard many times before but which was new to him when he first saw it:

"Yesterday is history / Tomorrow is a mystery / Today is a gift / That's why it's called the present."

When he reads it to me, I can tell he's tickled by the play on words, but standing there in the graveyard, I'm moved by the sentiment.

I've been thinking about that inscription as we put together Kids VT's annual holiday gift guide. Like most American parents, my partner and I buy holiday gifts for our kids. We're always trying to find things that will delight them but also prove useful or meaningful beyond the moment they tear off the wrapping paper.

My walks with Graham have been a reminder that the best gifts are ones we can experience as a family — games we play, projects we do, books we read, places we go together. You'll find our suggestions for all of these in the gift guide.

Something else that's been on my mind as we assembled this issue: We're saying goodbye this month to Carolyn Fox, managing editor. After a year leading the Kids VT charge, she's decided it's time to move on; we're all going to miss her.

Contributing writer Alison Novak is joining our team as the new Kids VT calendar writer. If you organize any of the events featured in our calendar, you'll be hearing from her soon.

All of us here at Kids VT hope you enjoy this activity-packed issue. Drop us a line to let us know what you think. We love hearing from you.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.