Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Perfect Gift

Awhile back I celebrated a family event and saw my darling 11-year-old first-cousin-once -removed. I had thought about bringing a gift, but felt put off by the idea. I don't like to automatically bring gifts, especially knowing that they're unlikely to be to an 11-year-old's liking. On the other hand, I can remember every gift and aunt or uncle or cousin ever gave me. It was slim-pickin's in the 1950's! Young people didn't walk around with a trail of gifts following them, like now. Nothing like a gift to feel validated. (Or misunderstood, if the gift is off. Or insulted if the gift is miserly.... No end to what we communicate in gift giving.)

There was an art/craft show near our hotel. I went and checked it out - I love craft fairs. To me buying from the artist directly is a good way to spend money. (Having been a vendor at shows, I know it feels great to make a sale and support yourself doing something you love, and when you buy direct, you often get better prices, with a higher profit going to the artist.) I decided to steal Emily away, if her parents permitted, and take her back to the show with me, so we could have a little time together. (In the end, I think time together is the real gift.)

We walked off hand in hand and got reacquainted, since I hadn't seen her for a few years, chatting about her life, school, and family. At the craft fair I told her if she fell in love with something I thought she just might receive it, and winked. She was the antithesis of greedy. We went from booth to booth and talked about which pieces we liked. I thought she would go for the jewelry, and having given her carte blanch to buy what she wanted, I began to get nervous. The old habit of spending as little as possible kicked in, but I told myself "So what? If she falls in love with something that costs more than I might have spent, but loves it, that will still be money well-spent, and I will never miss it."

Pretty soon she settled into the doggie decoupage booth, where an artist displayed hundreds of different dog breeds on frames, bags, buttons, you name it. I have zero interest in dogs and would have walked right past it. But Emily LOVES dogs and has a new puppy. Of course after long, careful consideration she picked a frame featuring her puppy's breed. Cost: $39. Experience: delightful. We got time together, she got a nice memento, and I got to feel like a bigshot.

Do you have a happy gift-giving story, either as recipient or giver, to share?

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