Gifts That We Grow Into (first published 12/25/10)

December 23, 2014 by  

When I was ‘sweet’ sixteen, my parents bought me a long strand of pearls. The necklace was, and remained for years, my only piece of “real” jewelry.  At the time, I was told that the pearls ought to be worn, not put away, and that their color would change subtly according to my skin. However, I don’t remember ever wearing the pearls in high school or college – they never went with the preppy, then hippy, outfits I preferred.pearls over black gloves

But, the pearls always traveled with me and I did grow into them. Years later, when I was getting my Ph.D., my mother visited me in Evanston. She was sick at that time and gave me her jewelry and the few pieces left by my grandmother.  The pearls had company – I now had a beautiful, meaningful, small collection of ‘real’ jewelry.  Right after her visit, my friend Carol had a wedding to attend in Pennsylvania. Her Quaker upbringing had not provided pearls at sixteen so I easily offered her my pearls for the weekend.  They looked lovely on her.  The gesture, genuine at first, left me with second thoughts.  After Carol left for her weekend wedding, I tormented myself with scenarios of her losing the pearls, mistreating them, breaking the strand and watching them roll away, unable to recapture them.  I imagined that she would misplace them or lose her suitcase during the flight. I was as overcome with regret as if I had already lost the pearls.

On Monday, just before Carol returned to town, I unexpectedly had to take my daughter to the pediatrician. We were only gone for an hour.  As soon as we returned home, the house felt bad to me and as I walked through the rooms, I knew we had been burglarized.  The thieves were selective – money and jewelry.  I had little money.  They took all my jewelry.  They left the TV that I didn’t watch and ignored the stereo whose multitude of buttons I never learned to operate.  My jewelry box was emptied.  All of it: mine, my mother’s, my grandmother’s and my aunt’s jewelry – gone and never recovered.

Within hours, the pearls came back to me from Pennsylvania.  I still have them; I still treasure them.  My daughters like this story.  So do I.  What I gave away, was returned to me.  It’s a holiday story – it’s an everyday story.

How to Buy The Perfect Gift

December 17, 2012 by  

Corre Ferguson, a psychologist, laughingly reminded me that she grew up in The Hospitality State, Mississippi. “My mom’s best friend told me that, if you have a guest room in your home, you spend the night in it so you can understand what might make it more comfortable. That’s the way I think about giving a gift.”

“I think as empathically as I can what their life might be like and if there is something

lose weight diet

that would bring them some pleasure and let them know I’m thinking of them.”

Corre’s Tips on Buying a Gift.  Ask Yourself:

1. What can you afford? You are not doing anybody any favor if you get into credit card debt. It doesn’t take a lot of money to let someone know that you thought about them.

2. What is their situation? When one of my nieces turned 15, I knew she felt that it was important to wear the ‘right’ clothes for high school. We sent her a gift card to a place on the web that caters to teen age girls (they live in a small town).

3. What

is their stage of life? When my brother was newly separated, a really good gift for him was steaks by mail. He was learning to cook for himself.

4. What is their taste? I don’t want to impose my own taste, so I try to think of something where you can’t go wrong. Everyone likes flowers, especially people who live in the city, or wine is a pretty safe bet. I try really hard to think about the person rather than choosing something that I want them to have.

5. Is it a family gift? People can be inundated with food, so one year, I decided to get everybody a movie that the family could. What movie? We tried Netflix but we got a notice from them that nobody was using their gift certificates. Oh well…

Some gifts say more about the sender. Parents send children messages about who they want their kids to be; what they think you are lacking. When I graduated from college, I tended bar and lived in one room over a restaurant. That year, I would have appreciated almost anything. Almost.  My mother sent me a business suit, lovely, but I kept thinking that I really needed health insurance. If you tend bar, you walk home late and probably need a canister of mace, not a suit that says, “I’d like you to be doing something else, please.” That’s hurtful.

And, Corre told me, “I have slept in my guest room.”