Give ‘em Rocks for the Holidays

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Coming, April 2023.

Well, here we are, December, the time of reckoning and reflection.

Just kidding. With a seven-year-old in the house whose birthday hits just after Christmas Day, December is a tornado wrapped in a hurricane delivered by an Elf on a Shelf. Our elf is named Tutu, by the way.

So, for this holiday season, let me tell you a story about something in between deep reflection and mad consumerism. Let’s talk gratefulness.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a retiring couple who were getting ready to move cross-country, from New England to Colorado, to be closer to their children. For three decades, they had lived on a refurbished dairy farm. One had been a librarian, while the other had a long career as a lapidary. They both were gardeners.

They knew my daughter was an explorer, a mud and grass stain enthusiast and a collector, visitor and climber of rocks. Over the years, they had accumulated quite a collection of geologic wonders, large and small, and weren’t going to haul it all a thousand miles. There were two options.

One, take the collection and scatter it into the woods behind their home.

Two, give it to Little Bean.

So, off we went, not knowing what to expect but excited at the possibilities. What awaited us was beyond our imaginations. In the old barn, the couple’s collection encompassed nearly an entire wall. There were dozens of boxes of fossils, petrified wood, geodes and crystals of all size and shape. And shells as well. And feathers.

“Daddy…” My daughter was frozen in place, a tiny Indiana Jones unable to comprehend the wonders in front of her eyes – like those old adventure movies where the explorer stumbles into an ancient cave, stacked with gold and diamonds. “Daddy, what do we do?”

“They are yours if you want them, baby,” I said. ‘We give them a good home.”

Upon returning home, we carefully laid out the boxes of treasures, generally sorting the items, picking out particularly beautiful ones and thinking about a strategy for how to deal with such an immediate, overwhelming collection.

While inheriting someone’s rock collection this large was a first for us, it wasn’t the first time. In fact, I’ve discovered that people, generally, go out of their way to give to little kids, especially kids like Little Bean who pick up hobbies with unrelenting enthusiasm.

My Little Ponies? Yup, still have a box of those given to her. Books? Oh lord, our floors are pushed to the weight limit. Stuffed animals? Don’t even talk to me about it.

But rocks and gems and fossils. That has stayed with her. She hasn’t grown out of it, the result of which being that rock gifts haven’t stopped coming.

Without descending into inspirational poster murk, I scan my brain database for some reflection on how we got here, on how to give back, on how to model the behavior of being grateful.

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet,” wrote the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han, which is basically just another way of saying be happy with what you have.

That works for now.

So, here’s the deal. Little Bean wants to give back. First, family and friends can be nearly guaranteed of receiving a “gift stone” as a present. I’m pretty sure her uncle is going to get a whole drawer of them.

And last week, after dutifully checking to make sure it was okay with our benefactors, Little Bean called for a geode party with her friends. The kids came over, sorted through the rock piles, removing all the round, unbroken geodes. We took great care to have proper eye protection, found a nice hard, flat surface outside and I handed the kids a hammer.

There may be a better gift than letting elementary school kids smash rocks with a hammer, but I have yet to discover what that might be. Anyway, each kid walked home with a sparkling geode in his or her pocket.

As for Little Bean, she’s spent some time creating a special place in her room, a bookshelf-like cubby where some of her prized possessions live. She sleeps just feet from a prehistoric shark tooth, a chunk of petrified wood and a bag of sea glass. Rocks are art. Art is rocks.

We receive and we give. That seems fair, and a pretty decent way to end out the year.

Where ever you may be, whatever you may celebrate or even if you don’t, keep kissing the Earth, finding cool rocks and giving them away. See you in the new year!

Uma and Dan Szczesny’s new book and the second in their four-part field guide series, “More NH Rocks That Rock: Memorial Stones,” will be released in April 2023. Rocks make great stocking stuffers. Not coal, rocks. Visit here for more info on the field guide series:

About this Author


Dan Szczesny

⇒ Transcendental Dad archives Dan Szczesny is a longtime journalist and writer who lives with his wife and energetic daughter in Manchester. Learn more about Dan’s adventures at