I’ve been getting ready for a flying visit from friends, and as I was preparing the house for eyes other than family, and baking because my love language is ‘have you eaten? Here, have a cookie.’ I was also thinking about gifts, and their impact on our lives.
It’s not easy to give meaningful gifts in this day and age, in the country where I live. We live in a wealth of abundance almost unequalled in any other era. Certainly unparalleled in history unless you were royalty or very rich. And even those privileged few couldn’t command what I have at my fingertips. I don’t need for much, and neither do my family or friends. If I want something, I get it. I’m spoiled that way. So the trick in gift-giving is to find that little indulgence someone might not pick up for themselves, but makes them smile once they have it.
I was washing dishes last night (and yesterday afternoon, and this morning… I did mention baking?) and as I was putting my now-clean spoon rest on the stove, I was thinking about the lady who gave it to us, along with a goodie bag of other things, for our wedding. I think of her often when I use that humble little item, because it’s tied to her in my memories. That’s what gifts should be, really. A memory of the giver, and their thoughts for us who receive the gifts. I have these silly little skull shot glasses all over the house – I think there were originally six, but they live on bookshelves in most of the rooms, so it feels like more. Whenever I grab one to use as an impromptu vase for a tiny bouquet, or as a water receptacle for painting as I recently did, I think of the giver who bestowed them on us, and I laugh. He’d intended to get something else, he’d explained when he gave them to us, but had gotten caught up in events and wound up with no more shopping time than a truckstop store. But even though he felt apologetic about the gift, I loved it, because they are quirky and fun and have a strong memory attached to them.
I was once scolded for wanting to make gifts for the people on my Christmas list. ‘It’s tacky,’ he said. ‘It looks cheap,’ he told me, before heading to the mall to spend money we couldn’t spare on generic items that weren’t going to be remembered or wanted. But as for me, I love the gifts that were made with the two hands and the heart of the giver. I don’t care if they aren’t perfect or polished. I tell my kids every year that all I want from them is some art. I don’t want it to be ‘great’ I just want it to be from them, from their head and heart. Ironically, now that I can afford to buy gifts, I wish I had more time to make them. I keep thinking that I’ll start right after Christmas, but the time gets caught up in a whirlwind.
I don’t even bake as much as I once did for the season – it used to be that I’d do cookies, and candy, and jars of homemade jam with a loaf of fresh bread all wrapped up in a basket. I miss those days, but that’s a long process I haven’t got the time for (or the jam berries, now that we’re not on the Farm). Instead I content myself with batches of cookies and knowing that when I do get to visit with friends, I can feed them. I don’t do elegant and fancy. But I can surely offer some homemade love in the form of tasty morsels. And perhaps a piece of art, if that’s not tacky and pretentious to offer up my own work as a gift.