Thursday, 21 June 2012
Present: something given or received as a gift. OED
I'm not sure I like gifts, but I like to receive them more than I like to give them. It's easier. All the same, I am happy to do without them. It was different when I was young; there were few gifts then, other than at Christmas or my birthday; I had wish lists, usually of books, and would have been very disappointed not to receive them. As an adult I no longer think 'presents' are important. By presents, I don't mean tokens of appreciation, they are essential between people in any kind of worthwhile relationship. I suppose we all have different attitudes in such matters. I find present giving difficult; there are few people whom I know well enough to choose a present they will truly value, all other presents are a waste of time and money. It takes me a long time and much searching to find a gift for those I love; I take present-giving rather seriously. Receiving is easier, I can make suitable noises of appreciation and frequently mean them.
I was reminded of the whole present-giving business because it was our birthday last week. Beloved's eyesight has been deteriorating for several years now and he finds reading small print difficult. So what is he given for a present? : a book or three, to add to the pile waiting to be picked up. I am lactose intolerant; people know this. When deciding what to give me, they go out and order an expensive handmade cake with lemon curd and handmade chocolate truffles. Beloved is a civilised sort of chap, his reply to the giver of an unwanted present is invariably: "how very thoughtful of you". The giver is much moved by this praise and redoubles his/her efforts to give even more of this kind of gift on the next occasion. I view my gift with a slightly less polite expression on my face; putting some heartfelt regret into my voice, I say something like :"oh dear, how very kind of you, but I am sorry, I can't eat this".
A friend of mine with very little money used to give me 'useful' things, small, inexpensive gadgets. I collected them in a box, where they joined other such items from other people. Recently I was able to pass them on, unused and mainly still in their original wrapping, to a dog charity. The lady was very pleased; "we'll keep these for Christmas, we should be able to sell them well", she said. This means that some other poor soul will be given photograph coasters and a set of cheese cutting/slicing knives.
If I have no idea what to give but a present must be made, I ask. You may accuse me of being sensible to a fault, but I promise to go out and find the requested present, come what may. Surely that's better than guessing and getting it wrong? Of course, it would be kinder if you didn't ask for anything that takes a lot of effort finding.
Having got this rant off my chest there's one thing which remains to be said: I received a very prettily packed parcel from a fellow blogger and friend Renee and inside I found this unusual gift: a calligraphy pen and a small bottle of ink. I have been practising my calligraphy but I have a long way to go before I get anywhere near proficiency in, much less mastery of, the art. The one thing I won't do is put this gift into the waiting-for-a-suitable-recipient-box.