The Present is a gift, or so it’s said. The reason for thinking about this is simple, yesterday I chanced upon an email I received in July 2017, accusing me of not lavishing sufficient gifts upon certain people.
So what is a gift, anyway?
Is choosing to spend time with someone a gift? It can be and it should be, like when a grandparent comes a long way to visit and you don’t know if or when you’ll see them again. Or a Dad, shut out of his children’s lives, who keeps his life on hold in the vain hope that they might choose to involve him in theirs again. Time must be one of the greatest gifts of all.
How about when a Dad works hard and makes sacrifices to pay for you to go to private school, so you can avoid the horrific schooldays he himself experienced, is that a gift?
How about taking your 4 children out for a meal, does that count as a gift, or did the bill just magically get paid by itself?
According to this email I read again two years after first receiving it, apparently these things are not gifts. Only cold, hard, shallow consumer goods are the accepted currency. The kind of goods that look good on the day, but break a few months later or fall out of fashion, either way ending up in the bin. If that is the case, then I am glad I stopped paying the price, although it took a while to unravel my role in the consumerist lifestyle I’d been sucked into since 1997. What was I getting back anyway when they’d all decided I wasn’t worth spending any time with? Did we not just establish that spending time with someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give?
Much to my self-disgust, I succumbed in desperation later and did trade gifts of the cold, hard, accepted local currency kind for birthdays in March, June and July 2017. I felt like an Indian tribesman trying to make his way, ingratiating the local elite best he can. My offerings were accepted, but nothing was given in return of the kind I hoped for – time with my own children. Instead, here, have some birthday cake and then just go. No thanks.
Later in the year, October, another milestone birthday was looming. I thankfully did not participate in the paying of tribute again. However, my mother sent a present over for me to deliver. This is where it got very strange as I was told I could not deliver it to her in person. My own daughter. After several humiliating mind games and demands, my mother and sister said to me “give up, we don’t want you humiliated like this over our gift”. So I did as they requested. My Aunt had also bought her a present of clothes and luckily we stopped her sending it in time and she got a refund (I hope). The same aunt who hand-knitted them all babywear many years earlier, treated with the highest disrespect.
That present is still in my house, along with a christmas one I bought my son in 2017, in a moment of positivity when I wrongly thought he would miss his Dad. They both just lie there – standing and waiting to be opened by a grateful child. I just wish I knew one, but I don’t. I wonder if I ever did.