The gifts from within

Best presents aren't always ones that come wrapped

What better time than in this pivotal season of giving and getting to reflect on gifts that withstand time?

At year's end, daily routines were interrupted to answer these two questions: What are you planning to give someone this year? And what is the best thing anyone has ever given you?  ...

Nerick Aronova is a cobbler who celebrates Hannukah with his wife, Bella, and their two young children. His daughter Maryann, 5, holds Yoda, the shop dog.

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Celebrating Hanukkah

Bella Aronova stared into the eye of the needle as Nerick, her husband, repaired the soles of shoes.

Nerick's grandfather stayed alive in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II by fixing soldiers' boots.

Both Nerick, 30, and Bella, 27, are the children of shoemakers and seamstresses from Russia.

Making things look new again is what the two immigrants do in their north central Phoenix shoe repair and alteration shop.

"Everything's fixable in this life," Bella said.

During the days leading up to Christmas, Bella and Nerick worked side by side, eking out a living for their family of four. They have two young children, Maryann, 5, and 1-year-old Jonathan.

As Russian Jews, they celebrate Hanukkah and the New Year as they did in Russia.

A New Year's far away still lingers for Bella.

"When I was a child, I was in the hospital. It was New Year's Eve, I was 6 or 7. In Russia we celebrate that holiday. It was so sad, I did not get any presents or anything.

"You have no parents around you. All you see is sick kids."

Then, the hospital summoned a Santa-like man who gave out presents, Bella remembered.

He gave Bella a snow globe of Moscow's Red Square.

"I remember that, and I will never forget that day in my life."
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