Thursday, July 1, 2010

To: You, From: Me

I used to pride myself on being a decent gift-giver.

I've always tried to put a lot of thought into my gifts (or at least I did before D Street began and gift cards became my first line of defense). In the initial stages of choosing a gift, I would often think to myself, "What does this person want that they don't know they want?" I believe in leaving "needs" out of the equation completely. I may NEED a shower caddy for the downstairs bathroom, but do I really want to receive that as a gift? (The same goes for socks and underwear -- and I say that in all seriousness because I have family members who actually put said items on their Christmas lists!)

I like to give items that the recipient may otherwise not think of purchasing (or be able to justify purchasing) for themselves. Gifts should be fun! Unexpected! Met with anticipation! Not something off a checklist of mediocre household goods.

(Buy your kids their own dang underwear. I'm getting them a Barbie.)

This topic has been the source of many conversations in the Eves household. We didn't do "lists" in the Crocker home growing up, and as a result, there was a genuine element of surprise as we opened each present. Gifts my parents gave me ranged from the truly awesome (think diamond tennis bracelet as a 17 year old) to rather puzzling (like the hot-pink fanny-pack with the hydration bladder my dad gave me...when I was 8?!). The excitement that came from not knowing what to expect really increased my appreciation for the act of giving and receiving. And that's something I've tried to recreate in my own family.

Tyler's is a list-family, which has taken some getting used to. There are benefits to lists, I agree. You don't have to worry about whether or not the receiver will like the gift, you get what you need, etc. But like I said, I have problems with those very things because it squashes the element of surprise for the recipient and requires little thought/effort from the giver. The times I've strayed from the lists I've gotten some weird looks, but I keep trying. I like to think that my subtle influence helped encourage my in-laws to take a leap of faith and surprise us with non-list-dictated gifts a number of years ago. They brought out big boxes one Christmas and had the daughters-in-law open them at the same time. Under the wrapping was a set of All-Clad pots and pans. It was completely unexpected. I don't know how my SIL felt about her All Clad because I was too busy screaming and jumping up and down with joy. My father-in-law still says that was the coolest reaction to a gift he's ever seen. And that's kind of what I think we all should shoot for in the gifts we give -- but maybe with a much lower price tag!

Tyler started to catch on to this idea a few years ago. Poor guy -- can't bring me flowers (duh), can't buy me clothes (too small, nothing fits), can't take me out on the weekends (my work days) -- What's a guy to do? Somehow he remembered a bit of late-night chatter regarding luxury items that I intended to purchase someday when I'm old and comfortable, simply because I can. The two items at the top of my list were a Dooney and Burke handbag, and a Mason-Pearson hairbrush. Silly things, really, but things that seemed to signify wealth and sophistication when I was growing up. My mother actually had a Mason-Pearson hairbrush and whenever I had the opportunity, I would sneak into her bathroom and use it. I can still feel those boar bristles gliding down my hair like honey. Its the brush of celebrities. So decadent, so luxurious, so...frivolous. But when I opened up my birthday present one year to find a shiny, handmade Mason-Pearson staring back at me, I gulped. Tyler was ecstatic that he got me something I always wanted, I was reeling from the fact that he had spent over $100 on a HAIRBRUSH. A brush that actually comes with care instructions. A brush that has its own brush to clean it. A brush that doesn't do anything in particular. You can't style your hair with it. Its more of a Marsha Brady-type brush (use it before bed and admire how shiny your hair looks). It was a surprise, to say the least, but after I got over the initial sticker shock (darned joint-accounts!), I was reminded of how nice it is to be spoiled sometimes and how a well-thought gift really can make you feel like a million bucks, if only for a moment.

I was thinking about this as I was brushing my hair tonight. I really DO need a shower caddy for the downstairs bathroom (among a trillion other things!), but would I trade my little piece of well-thought indulgence for those perceived needs? I don't think so. Not just because the hairbrush makes my hair soft and shiny and perfect right before I throw it into a bedtime ponytail (and holy-mama, IT DOES!), but because of what it represents. It was the perfect type of gift, and it makes me think of the man who gave it to me each time I put it to use. So in that sense, mission accomplished.

A couple days ago it was Tyler's 34th birthday and I got him nothing. Not even a card. I jest that I bought him a house and that's good enough for a while, but really, I'm ashamed of how lax my gift-giving rituals have become. So now I need to recommit myself to the art of giving gifts and find something to do to make up for this birthday faux pas.

I haven't a clue what to do or get. It'll take some thought, for sure.

...Maybe a Dooney and Burke handbag?

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