Tucked away with other keepsakes is a small, decorated gift box with a fancy handkerchief inside. The gift card remains intact and is for my Mother from Rachel, a woman who did cleaning in an apartment building my parents once owned. She and my Mom were total opposites, but they formed a friendship that lasted for years. Some would say after seeing the simple gift that it should be disposed of as bright colorful hankies are not particularly in vogue. But it’s a lovely reminder of a gift given truly from the heart. And in a world where the holiday season begins prematurely, and commercialism has diminished its simplicity, we need such reminders. Both Rachel and my Mother have been deceased for many years, but that gift continues bringing pleasure.
When I was in the sixth grade, my Mom gave me a hat trimmed in fake fur for Christmas. I disliked it intensely, but didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I never told her. I wore it out the door, and when I was a safe distance from home, took it off. I don’t recall if I had a back up hat to wear while walking the considerable distance to school. Somehow my Mother realized I didn’t like the hat. How she knew that, I’m not sure, but have since chalked it up to that maternal wisdom and intuition bestowed on mothers. Where the hat ended up, I don’t know, but I appreciated my Mother’s consideration for not making me feel guilty that I didn’t like it.
Gift giving is risky, especially when anticipating and expecting a positive outcome. No one gives a gift intending to disappoint, but we all have different ideas about what’s a great gift. My dear friend Gayle received a sewing machine from her husband for their first Christmas together as a married couple. More than 51 years later, the memory still pleases her and she’s become an accomplished seamstress because of that very practical and useful item.
Guessing the wrong type of gift for a child can be humorous and humbling. Children rarely know how to mask their disappointment, and the gift-giver’s good intentions count little with a youngster. With adults also, erroneous expectations can play havoc even with thoughtful, pricey gifts. Always best to reduce the expectation and concentrate on gratitude rather than bliss.
Feelings change and one day the unattractive hat or disappointing toy, or the practical rather than luxury item assumes new meaning. One of the Christmas presents my husband gave me some 40 years ago was a sewing basket that he filled with thread and accessories. I still use it, and my appreciation for his creative efforts has multiplied through the years.
Giving gifts is just one dimension of holiday celebrations, and we recognize that, but sometimes the gift part escalates in importance. There are myriad ways to honor the tradition, and none should cause discomfort or concern or financial hardships. Christmas is one day a year, but the significance and good will can last a lifetime, even if a gift is modest or not exactly the preferred item. Sometimes what’s best for giving and receiving are appreciation and a joyful spirit. May the holidays be wrapped in the beauty of both, exemplifying the spirit of goodwill.