Somewhere in the radio years, a listener taught me
“Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery
And today is a gift – that’s why we call it the present.”
You may recognise this. I hadn’t heard it before – even though I live by the last line. And I like the play on words – which made me think about presents.
I only know one person who isn’t good at being given presents. Most of us love a present. But getting them organised varies.
Perhaps you believe that a gift is a gift and should be acknowledged approvingly, even if you frankly dislike it.
There are people who have a knack of getting the right gift, others still for whom, if you spend enough, it will be right: they present you with expenditure and they know that you will appreciate it, as such.
There are others who give what they can – itching sweaters, socks that shrink, cologne or aftershave you dislike. You either receive these in the spirit of “it is more blessed to give than to receive” or you button your lip, try not to let your disappointment show and quietly dispose of the offending items.
Most of us know some who are easier to buy for than others. It’s not that they are necessarily easily pleased, more that their taste is so defined that we can recognise it. Every so often we take a risk in present giving and it either works or it doesn’t but I have great faith in the list.
As a child the family rule was what you got what you needed (coat, shoes, underwear) for Christmas, what you wanted (as far as was possible) for birthday. Christmas was added to by “sillies” – small things in a stocking. Birthday was added to by cake.. But the list started when I was quite young because I was so particular. At one stage my mother told me she never wanted to buy anything for me again, it was such a risk (we didn’t have money for risk) and we began the list.
The deal is, you don’t get everything that is on the list but it is there so that you
know you can buy this or that and be right. It was a guide to getting it right if you couldn’t guess lucky. My son and I adopted the list as he grew older. And we adapted it to add “or a surprise.” I had two real successes with him as surprises and I am a joke because most of the time, I want books.
But occasionally somebody takes a risk which is how I came by my Victorian blue and white plates given to me by Wal, Wal who isn’t interested in Christmas, who only celebrates Christmas because it’s too much trouble to cancel it, Wal who gave me this enormous heavy package saying “Don’t open it till Christmas morning !” He never says things like that. So imagine me at 5.00 am in half dark, opening the bubblewrap and taking out these plates, totally unexpected, in time for Boxing Day lunch for four and I sat on the floor in my dressing gown with my arms full of china and wept happy tears.
Joy (not her real name) is a friend of a friend whom I first met over email because she thought her daughter in law had prolonged post natal depression.
In the event, she has other problems, the situation has other problems and unmet, Joy and I exchanged views and information. She sent me a scented candle. I am not big on scented candles, most of the time less scented than smelly. This one was from a Spanish perfumery and it was a breakthrough. That was pretty good.
And we met. And we continued to email. Joy came for coffee last week and put in front of me the prettiest package in the smallest Chanel bag (we both love black and white, packaging, photography, check). “Go on” she said. “Open it.” In side was a tiny tissue-swathed beribboned package, which contained a stunningly deep pink nail polish.
Dear readers, I do not have a nail on which to put polish. I have tiny square hands like paws and should I wish to paint my nails, the manual dexterity of a monkey on crystal meth. But the bottle is on my makeup tray, I stroke it, I carry it round the house like a talisman. My eye smiles on the colour, the packaging, the thought.
Would I have chosen it? Probably not.
Do I need it? No.
Am I pleased with it? Exceedingly.
It is the present, it is a present. Definitely, a good thing.
* “give than to receive”.