Monday, December 18, 2006

On gifts, with seven shopping days left to Christmas...

I got a present in the mail today from Avnet, a technology distribution company that I cover for my magazine, and inside a nice wooden box I found a box of mixed nuts. Delightful! Hooray! I put a Weakerthans sticker on top of the Avnet logo, and now I have mixed nuts AND an indie rock wooden box.

My co-worker got some fruit, or some other such corporate-gift nonsense. But I'm not complaining.

It made me think as I was walking to the loo about all of the gifts I'd gotten for family and friends for Christmas this year. Some are more special than others, even though all of my recipients are equally special. I mean, how sentimental is a gift card? But as my mind wandered over the things I'd decided to bestow upon my loved ones, my mind wandered back to what I'd been given that meant most to me.

The first thing that came to mind was a ring -- a plastic ring with a green plastic stone that my dad gave me when I was maybe five or six when we were at my grandparents' house for some reason. I remember putting it on and thinking it was the most precious thing in the whole world. I had this little token on my tiny hand that probably cost a quarter, but made me feel like a princess.

I also remember my thirteenth birthday, when my mother gave me a wooden chest (still unpainted! She promised paintings!) filled with mementos of my childhood – my blanket, my christening dress, a silver rattle. Since that time I've added things – programs from my graduations. Trinkets from plays I'd acted in. But it was the gift itself – a place to keep tiny pieces of my past – that made it stand out in my memory.

But the most wonderful thing I ever received, I still keep in my jewelry box.

After having surgery to help restore hair to my head when I was in… I believe it was fifth grade when it was finally enough to cover my head… I remember my father giving me two enameled barrettes. They're gold with ivory enamel with blue purple flowers and green leaves. One is missing, but I have the other. I carry it with me to each new apartment, nestled somewhere deep in a box full of the things I don't think I could bear to lose. It was the first gift I received after years of surgeries and presents that made me feel like a normal little girl. Something pretty I could wear in my hair.

Should I ever decide to get married, I'll wear that in my hair instead of a veil.

Sure, gifts come and go. Things get lost. Things break. But the one thing you can never replace is that feeling of safety and love when someone you love gives you something that shows you they care, or when you, in turn, get to give that gift to someone else.

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