Giving and Receiving

December 2022. Time to think of presents if you haven’t already done so. Once upon a time you began to think of what to give a month before or even earlier. I remember I kept a lookout for something to put aside at giving time, even if it was in the middle of August, and the present would be squirreled away waiting for the proper occasion.

Christmas is not Christmas without presents under the tree, even if it is a virtual tree. Christmas though should not be a time when as a child you couldn’t wait for Santa to come and leave you gifts, sometimes wished for, sometimes unexpected. As you grow older it is no longer the presents you receive but the joy you have in giving.  The essence of giving should be that we are bestowing something of ourselves. We are giving ourselves. For the gift we have chosen reflects our own soul, is in a sense, part of us. It is the challenge of finding something special.

Sometimes you ask the person interested. Is there something special you would like? And then it is a matter of trying to find it, for search as you might, it might no longer be available, no longer fashionable, or even might be something no one has ever heard of. With some it is easy when they have a special interest, or when you know that something you like would also strike a chord with them. Collectors, readers, fans of this or that.

It was simple when one could riffle through the boxes of videocassettes, CDs or even DVDs. Go back further in time and it was a pile of vinyl records.  Books are still possibilities, meaning real paper books and not the eBook type. Although this probably limits the age of the recipient to over 50. Facebook and TV ads abound in suggestions for gifts – under $50, under $100, etc. Some can be useful –like compression socks, or jars of hot chocolate mix with a separate jar of marshmallows (for those who like that sort of thing, which is not me). Reusable cloths are advertised with their possible uses  – seems to me that a cloth I make from a sheet worn thin in the middle would do just as well. Besides which it is something the giver spent time in making.  Some gifts are redundant, who needs another pair of slippers, or a watering can? Or felt coasters? Does anyone still use coasters anyway? Like napkin rings, I suppose it depends on where you live and how you were brought up. A pepper mill might be useful and a butter warmer? Sounds interesting even if the name is sort of equivocal. And what is meant by an all-purpose wine glass? For red or white? For still or bubbly? Seems to me it’s just a plain wine glass, not meant for water or beer, but for wine of whatever type. Yet people have insisted on inventing different shapes of glasses for different “beverages”. Martini, Manhattan, a variety of cocktails. Teacups, coffee mugs, glasses for milk or lemonade. Iced drinks, hot beverages. With a double function of warming or cooling a hand or a person.

If you had given it a thought a while back, you might have had that ceramic artist personalize a mug or a plate, or a tile that can be used as a trivet. It’s the thought that counts they say. Mostly things no one absolutely needs and which might not give that spark of joy so essential to Marie Kondo. Aside from Marie Kondo’s objects, the joy is in giving and in receiving. There’s the joy you give others when you appreciate their gift. Or your joy when you see how they delighted someone is in the gift you found for them.

One should initiate a dialogue, share things of the past. Wouldn’t it be better to look through your photos and choose a meaningful selection? Or maybe even write a poem or a paragraph commemorating something you have shared and which will bring back memories. Yes, memories are perhaps one of the best gifts. even if you say you don’t know how to write.  Delve deep into your store of memories and arrange them on a page, illustrated with photographs or sketches, for a gift should reflect our relationship with the recipient. How about your grandmother’s recipe for apple pie? She did use lard, or later Crisco, and you might want to replace it with butter or margarine, both of which are not all that healthy either. At the time butter was just too costly, like the peanuts she used instead of walnuts in her Christmas cake. And lard did make the flakiest of crusts. Print the recipe up nicely, find a picture or a drawing, and accompany it with a special pie pan. Christmas present giving should stimulate your imagination. Make giving presents fun not duties.

There is a downside to giving too, for Christmas in particular has become a sort of potlatch, where gifts are given out of duty, because they are expected, as a way of showing respect, thanks, gratitude. Are mandatory, obligatory.  To or from your boss. Anyone who has done you a favor. Your colleagues. Your employees.

The gifts that really matter are those given with your heart, those that only you could have given to that one particular person for whom that gift will always be a reminder of you aside from any other meaning it may have.

2 thoughts on “Giving and Receiving

  1. I think you are absolutely right about presents, Erika. I have a feeling that Dickens would have concurred! I hope you don’t sprain your wrist in wrapping your gifts for others. At least you should be able to tear off the wrapping paper of those given to you with liberal abandon!


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