Gifts Given

Winter is here.  Christmas is coming.  I’m sure my Christmas spirit will kick in eventually, but so far it hasn’t.  Other things seem to be getting in the way.

Today I was remembering a time many years ago when Christmas felt different.  I was in college, living at home, and working, doing  a radio program five evenings per week.  It was the first time I had a disposable income, and I looked forward to getting some real gifts, and not the kid-gifts I could afford when I had little or no money coming in.

There is only one gift I remember giving that year.  I thought the pots and pans my mother used were unacceptable.  They were all different, and in various stages of disrepair – missing lids, or with handles that wiggled.  I decided she needed something nicer, and a full set that matched.

There were things I didn’t know then that I know now.  First, now that I like to cook, I realize that sometimes the worn-out pan is the one you want to use.  You’re used to it, and you know just how it will work.  Second, although the set of pans that I bought looked really nice, they were actually not very good.  I’m sure I paid the same for a 10-piece set that I would have paid for one nice sauce pan.  Third, my gift of new pots and pans may have been seen as an implication that somehow my parents weren’t on top of things enough to realize that the cookware they’d been using was inadequate.

But, when Christmas morning came, I was really pleased to give them their gift, and they responded with gratitude, even if it isn’t what they felt.  I received much more from giving that gift than they did from receiving it, I’m afraid.

In the program, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” a continuing theme was the giving of gifts that weren’t good enough, like a tropical fish that died, or a “Fruit of the Month Club” membership.  In my family that was never the case, because everyone gave the impression that they were thrilled with their gifts.  Looking back, I realize now that they were thrilled not with the gifts, but with what they perceived as genuine thoughtfulness in selecting them.

Now, without small children in the picture, thoughtful gifts tend to be practical items, or even gift cards.  That’s okay, and preferable to spending money on things that aren’t wanted or needed, but it is different.

One of my last Christmases at home, I got home from work at 12:30am, as usual, and went around the house finding objects that belonged to my family members.  I then wrapped them and put them under the tree.  I don’t know if they were amused the next morning as they unwrapped them, but I enjoyed it.  Of course, I got other gifts for them too.

It’s nice to look back.  My mother and father are both gone now, and as some memories of them fade, the Christmas morning memories seem clear.  That in itself is quite a gift.

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