18 November 2001
I find it interesting how what’s going on in my friends lives (and their friends lives) bounces around creating ripples of conversation. This week’s topic is presents. Presents for birthdays, presents for Christmas, just plain presents.
I used to have very mixed feelings about presents. Getting presents where people seemed to read my mind about what I wanted was thrilling, getting socks was a bummer. Not having money to buy good presents bummed me out, not having a clue what someone might like bummed me out.
Now I just like getting them. And giving them. Whenever I can. To whoever I want to.
The watershed for me came when I realized that for me giving presents is part of my overall relationship with a person. If the only time I thought of them was at Christmas and the thought was along the lines of– gee, I’d better get so and so a present or they will feel bad– then I wasn’t much of a friend to that person. Also, if I limited my gift buying opportunities to The Holiday Season then I missed out on the opportunity to buy gifts that leapt off the shelf at me and said “take me to so-and-so’s house– he needs me!”
Part of this change came about after I had my one-and-only child. Every new thing is a delight to him. It doesn’t matter if it is the newest or the keenest or his to keep or just on loan. He is enchanted by the world. I realized that I used to be that way– when I was two.
All through my 3rd decade I struggled with my ambivalent feelings about birthdays, Christmas, and gifts. I also struggled with a personality change that would hit a week or two before my birthday and hang in there until January or February. I don’t know how to explain it to someone outside my skin but a switch would flip and I would change on the inside.
A few years ago I found a solution by accident. I was over at a friend’s house and we watched a sad movie and I cried– a lot. Then I felt better. And that year my fall weirdness was a bit less weird.
So for the past few years I’ve been having just one or two friends over, a box of Sees’ Chocolates, and a five-hankie movie, as a sort of strange birthday antidote that has, for the most part, helped.
This year, everything was different. The local Furry-Science-Fiction Convention was going to be held on my birthday. I hadn’t been for several years and my mother-in-law offered to talk our son for the weekend so both my husband and I could go. Many of my friends were going to be there– and best of all– they had a table in the dealers den that I could help staff. Having a table to hang out behind and a reason to talk to people is a wonderful thing for an introvert like me. I hate introducing myself to random strangers but love talking about the Tai-Pan Project and this way I could have a reason for being there.
We went and had a great time.
My actual birthday I was playing pinochle and other strange games with four good friends (including my husband) when the fire alarm went off and chased us into the parking lot.
Which brings me back to presents. The-World’s-Greatest-Parent’s-in-Law had given me the gift of watching the grandson so I knew he was safe and loved while I went off and had fun in a way he won’t really grasp until he has children. My parents sent me flowers from one of the nicest flower shops in Seattle. (I love getting flowers especially in the dark months). And at the convention, as we were packing up our part of the dealers room, one of the folks who I know through the Project gave me a sweatshirt with one of his designs printed on it. It’s a really nice sage green with a piratical mermaid hanging out on a rock. It was a really neat piece of art and he gave it to me out of the blue.
I was thrilled. It made me feel warm and fuzzy. I think it had much more impact than the giver may have known. I wore it for the rest of the day and thought happy thoughts.
Spending that weekend with friends, and friends of friends, was wonderful. If the difference between heaven and hell is the company you keep then I was in heaven all weekend and was the best gift of all.
Presents can be love personified. No matter how weird or awkward or wonderful or strange. Even gifts of obligation can transform a relationship and give you something in common with your weird relative or something to talk about with your co-worker or an excuse to go to a white-elephant party and give more presents and get more presents.
Love and caring improve with time.
“Tests are gifts and great tests are great gifts.” Lady Cordelia Vorkosigan, “Barrayar” by Lois McMaster Bujold.