The gift-giving season, that is. For our family, it starts in September, really, and runs all the way to March, after which our family gets a nice reprieve (except for Kender’s birthday). Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, every month, one after another. If you speak of friends, we have birthdays year-round, of course. But then there is December, The Month Of Gifting in just about every major religion practiced in our country. Except it’s not confined to December. We must begin thinking about it now. What am I saying? We were supposed to be thinking about it All Year Long, and feel guilty if we don’t already have a list of gifts and some of them already piled in our closets or socked away on layaway.
gift, n., something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
Is it really voluntary? Do you really have a choice of whether or not you show up for that holiday gift exchange or birthday party without a present? Wouldn’t social services have something to say if you just up and decided no more presents for your kids? (Ok, maybe not.)
Some people wait all year long for these gift-giving occasions. We’ll call them The Planner. They keep their eyes open while they shop, tagging things in their minds (“I bet Suzy would just love that little trinket there!”), maybe even making notes somewhere if they’re especially organized and talented. These are the people who have their shit together come The (Black Fri) Day, the ones who will have all the best presents ready to go, wrapped and tagged, special gifts for every person. (The worst of this species hand-makes all their presents, and I’m not talking jars of brownie mix, either. Martha Stewart, I’m looking at you.) Those of us who can’t resist buying something “really neat” for our loved ones the instant we see it are not good at emulating this type of giver.
Then there is the person who may not have been planning all year, but who still knows their targets well enough to just pick something out on the spot. Call them The Telepaths. You can’t tell these two species apart at the moment of giving; the difference is only apparent by the lead time in the planning and purchasing stages. The Telepaths can use their special talent to pick out the perfect gifts without the weeks and months of general shopping around.
There is another species: The Bulk Gifter. This person picks one thing and gives it to everybody but their closest family. If they are especially democratic, they might even use it for birthdays. The item may be identical across the board (“You get a cookie mix! And you get a cookie mix! Everybody gets a cookie mix!!!”) or they may vary in detail rather than theme (a book, another book, oh look I got a book!). Either way, this person has their gift giving solved. Bulk processing, economies of scale, and usually they still manage to make it something that everybody likes.
I don’t think The Regifter gets enough credit. The regift is generally frowned upon as cheap, ungrateful to the original gifter, thoughtless to the new recipient, etc. Think about it, though. The Regifter has shown enough appreciation for the gift that they have cared for it long enough to pass it on to what they believe will be a truly loving home. They could have donated it to Goodwill or just thrown it away, but they hung on to it, waiting for it to find it’s forever home. The connection in their mind to the new recipient may have been spur of the moment, or it may have been growing for months, but it does not have to be dictated by time or available funds. What better way to show environmentally-friendly thought and action than to make sure something does not go to waste?
Then there is me. I want to go out and give my friends and family the absolute coolest gifts ever. I want to show how much I care about them, how much I’m willing to spend time and money on them, how much I want to hang out with them, how grateful I am that they are around. But when the time comes, there’s always a missing component. Sometimes I have the best idea in the world, but the available funding turns it into a crappy execution. Or maybe I can’t figure out what to give the person who has everything. Sometimes I just don’t know or can’t remember what my own husband would like to have. Other times, I run through a laundry list of books, music, special trinkets, and other things, feeling confident that every possible choice that sounds new and exciting to me is going to be old hat, yesterday’s news to them, because they are just such cool and amazing and knowledgable people. Some years I think I am going to be the Planner, making out lists of things I can knit and crochet for people. I get a few gifts done that way, but never the whole lot, and I’m sure most of those gifts are moth-eaten and gathering dust in some closets. Rarely, I will find something, have the funds to purchase it (or the time to make it), be able to hold on to it until the day, and remember where I hid it, and pull off a fantastic gift. More often, I feel like the Forrest Gump of gift-giving: my heart is in it, but that’s about all you can say is there.
Oh well. They say it’s the thought that counts, right?