Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ruminations About Gifts

This is my 63th Christmas, and thru the years I think I have learned a few things about gift-giving and receiving.
So very seldom have I ever given a gift that was just right. This Christmas that happened. A book bought on a whim from an internet seller proved to be the hit. It seemed like a good book to me, but I have made assumptions like that before. It was a gift to a child and the reaction was of genuine delight.
Many times the gift was wrong and the recipient made no attempt to hide that fact. Handmade ornaments were cast on the floor and presents that were out of my price range at the time they were given were pushed aside without even a thank you as the honoree jumped up to run off to attend to household duties (Martha/ Mary?). Other times the gift was rejected because the specifications for the gift were so exacting that I managed to mess it up. Some of my misplaced gifts still sleep in the attic where they have lain for more than 20 years. I sometimes picture how in the coming years when I no longer buy gifts someone will run across these castoffs and think they are real treasures (antiques?) or wonder why on earth anyone would spend good money on such a thing.
Once when I was a child my aunt gave my cousin and me a gift, even though she did not customarily do so. We opened them together. I was happy enough with my plain white diary till I saw my cousin’s, which was ornately engraved in gold with a lock and key. I had always known that I was not as pretty or as talented as my cousin, but she always loved me with a love so steadfast that I felt perfect in her presence. Even though that aunt lies moldering these many years in her grave, the pain she inflicted lives on.
My widowed sister lived with us when I was in high school. The Christmas I decided to use almost all my money to buy her a diamond cocktail ring shines vivid in my memory. I arranged it so that it would seem that the box fell straight from Santa’s bag. The surprise and pleasure I remember on her face still gives me warmth.
While going through some papers at my Mother’s house, I ran across a yellowed and brittle paper that held a poem I had written for her one Christmas. It was corny but heartfelt, and I felt again her special love for me as I realized how carefully she had kept it all these years.
But Christmas is not the only time for gift giving. As my Mother and Mother-in-law reached their apogee and started their decent, they both began to give me strange gifts. Many times it was pictures cut from magazines, old calendars, or stickers from Easter seal fund raising letters. I took them as if they were real treasures, even when I knew their ultimate destination was the trash. Eventually I began to see that it was not the stickers they were giving me, but an opportunity to share a flash of joy with them. Something had triggered a thought of me and they wanted me to know it. It seemed appropriate that I should be given the object that triggered the thought.
As my children grew I began to collect things for them that I anticipated they would need in the future when they had their own homes. Recently I began to understand that these collected objects were like the calendars and stickers that I had been given. My children live so far away that they usually visit by plane and these are not the kind of things that any sensible person would allot suitcase room to. Besides, they could buy something more appropriate and at least not rusty. They turn away from my offerings not realizing that rejecting a gift is a rejection of the giver. They do not recognize my attempts to participate in some way in their lives which are now so distant from me. And I do not wish to saddle them with useless possessions that will add rather than subtract from their yearly burdens.
Yet I remember with misty eyes the first years of my marriage when a trip home meant returning with a trunk full of groceries, some of which were pretty unusual, things I would never buy. Who needs a huge bag of dried northern beans? I don’t even like them. When there were only 2 of us, my mother-in-law gave me a half gallon of home canned peas. I carted it around for years as we moved place to place. I knew that it represented a lot of work and effort on her part and stood in for the love that she was hard pressed to express any other way.
So choose your gifts carefully, but know that you will probably make mostly mistakes. Don’t forget to be thankful for the small gifts that seem inappropriate and try to see what lies behind them. That is the real gift, but it may take years to understand.

1 comment:

  1. After reading this, I told Mary to read it. She did and then began crying. She said that she wishes she had read it sixty years ago.


Blogging tips
Blogging tips