Sunday, April 6, 2008

A True Gift Story: Buying Something for Someone Whose Taste I Know Really Well - ME!

Gift giving is a very sensitive issue in couple and family life. It's bad news if you forget your wife or mother's birthday. The stories don't dwell on women forgetting their husbands' birthdays, but that probably happens, too. My husband thinks gift rituals are a big hassle. He is happy for me to buy what I want for myself, and is basically hugely relieved if I leave him out of it entirely and just show him what I bought, if indeed I bothered. Usually it's something I'm wanting but can't justify, like a digital camera. This works for us.
However, I didn't think it was good role modeling for our kids. It's important for children, who are naturally very self-focused, to have the opportunity to buy or make gifts for their parents and celebrate parents' birthdays as family events. Likewise, with Hanukkah. It's fun, and important, to give presents as well as receive them.
One year, a few weeks before Hanukkah, I walked through Lord and Taylor and noticed a dress on sale which I loved, but didn't need. I tried it on, debated a bit, and then it clicked. This was my Hanukkah gift from my kids and husband. I went and paid for it and asked the clerk if it could be gift wrapped. This isn't very common with dresses, apparently. She commented that I must know the person whom I was buying it for really well. "Yes, I do know her really well! It's me!", I couldn't resist telling her. She got a kick out of this, since apparently my spouse is not the only shopping-challenged husband in the world.
Now comes the fun part. My kids took huge pride in the beautifully wrapped gift which sat waiting for me to open on Hanukkah, from them and Daddy. They noticed whenever I wore the dress, now dubbed my Hanukkah dress, and I took great pleasure every time I wore it, too. It was no longer just any old dress, it was a gift from my family. Many years later I had a hard time getting rid of it, long past when it was in style, since just looking at it made me happy.
Moral of the story, at least to me: the ritual of gift-giving has a certain magical power to it. Even though I was the one who purchased the gift and watched it being wrapped, something transformative happened when it sat in a gift box in the dining room and my kids took ownership of it as their gift to me. When I opened it, it had BECOME a gift. One that suited me especially well!

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