So, I enjoy gift giving. I do. Even in this unstable economy, I savor in hoarding retail goods in my overflowing gift cabinet, located unexpectedly in the hallway linen cabinets… on your way to my laundry room– but dang, now you know secret hiding spot! Ssh! Don’t tell anyone– especially my kids. Once the kids know, my gift cabinet will avalanche onto the tile hall floor, shattering most of the breakable stuff. Ah, but I digress…
With no intent on who gifts are for, I like purchasing them throughout the calendar year. Kind of a backwards approach, but I like having an epiphany in the middle of July and thinking, “Wow! Those battery-operated warming mittens I bought on sale back in February would be perfect for [insert family member name here] next Christmas.” I am driven by uniqueness in my gift hoarding. I temporarily harbor those special items I locate in my daily existence but know I don’t really need and need to eventually expel. I like having those gifts on hand to have at a moment’s notice when I am invited to a dinner party or baby shower… or to use as thank you gifts for that unexpected nicety someone does for me or my family. (I have this gift hoarding instinct from growing up and going to birthday parties. My mother would make the trek up the ascending stairs to our attic and shuck me down a stuffed animal to wrap. We were always good to go!)
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My mother taught me the art of giving gifts. She was a natural. And she didn’t relegate gifts to holidays. She’d come back from a trip and would do this ceremonious build up to me: “Livy, sit on the couch… I’ve got something for you.” I don’t remember the specific gifts… the materialistic items… as much as the warmth in her voice with peppered excitement lilting into higher octaves with each growing sentence. Her anticipation of me opening the gift magnified the experience. I also benefited from witnessing my mother wrap up gifts for family, friends, her coworkers… she would explain the meaning of each gift she wrapped, as I sat on the bed or the couch. She would explain the importance of why a particular gift would be meaningful to a said person… and why it was important that this person or that person feel acknowledged on a given occasion. Her ebullient generosity was up-lifting.
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Fast forward to adulthood, I don’t feel the same rush to receive gifts as I did when I was a child opening gifts Christmas morning under the tree. Birthdays remind me that I’m another year older. Why would I want a gift to commemorate that? (Smile) I have turned into my maternal grandmother in that sense. I used to ask her what she wanted for a given holiday. She would always scoff with, “Oh, don’t worry about getting me anything. I don’t need anything. Save your money.” But I knew what she wanted anyway: marzipan. It was her favorite candy from the old country. So, I would relish in finding the unique marzipan-shaped creatures from the Frango Store in Marshall Fields department store… on State Street in Chicago. My mother and I would buy her marzipan pigs, mice, and mushrooms (and any other odd shape that you could imagine sculpted from almond paste) on our annual holiday shopping spree. My grandmother also loved going out to eat with us to her favorite Czech restaurants– that was something she couldn’t wave her hands away at. And speaking of hands, we also gave her an orchid corsage with fanned tulle that she’d wear on her wrist or pin to one of her adorned pastel dresses. I couldn’t understand at the time why my grandmother would have no particular enthusiasm for an impending gift giving holiday– until now. I’ve struck the age and the lifestyle in which I’ve peaked at conspicuous consumption. I, like my grandmother had, have a house full of stuff. I have perennial yard sales to sift through and sell off stuff. I’m literally stuffed with stuff. So, now I truly enjoy giving gifts to other people. Honestly, it’s a way of exhaling material possessions for a purpose.
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What I wish I could possess, at any given holiday, is not of this world anymore. It would be the earthly presences of my mother and grandmother. Though, I do possess from them the excitement in the gift giving spirit that every holiday can inspire. And for that, I truly feel gifted.