I have a memory of having posted about gifts and presents before. Certainly I always think about it at this time of year as I listen to everyone around me agonizing over what to give and what to request. For me, gifts and presents are different beasts. I get lazy and often use them interchangeably, but when I am careful, I use them differently. A gift is something that the recipient wants. It doesn’t matter if you, the giver, likes it, thinks the recipient needs it, thinks it’s “appropriate”. The recipient WANTS a gift. A present is something that the giver wants to give to the recipient. The GIVER thinks the recipient should have it, should appreciate it, needs it, deserves it. It doesn’t matter if the recipient doesn’t really care for what’s being given. The giver wants to give THAT. Sometimes a recipient so desires a particular item that even if the present IS something that could be appreciated sometime, at the moment of receipt the over-whelming recipient reaction is despair, frustration and dislike. The recipient was craving the gift so passionately, so furiously, so totally, that all that can be seen in that moment is the “not-gift”, not any of the thought or care or consideration of the present. Even if the present will actually BE a gift in time. So what happens then is that the giver is angry and frustrated and disappointed, the recipient is angry and frustrated and disappointed, and yet – under a slightly different scenario they would have both been delighted and fulfilled.
I’ve been on both sides of that equation. I’m sure you have as well. I’m in it again at the moment although with something intangible. A dear friend of mine is in the same position. Presents are being offered. The presents reflect respect, value, trust. Except it is the gift that is craved. I know what to tell my friend, to tell myself. Smile, accept the present, recognize it for what it is, and try to forgive it for not being what it isn’t.
When I was a mere lass, I had already decided that appearances mattered. *grin* Oh, such a surprise to hear that from me, right? My sister is older than I (Oh MUCH MUCH older. *grin* oooooooollllllllllllduh) SHE had – gasp – makeup. I did not. I coveted her cover-up cream because although I did not have makeup, I had zits. Imagine. On the other hand, *I* woke up early and she did not. Not only that, she slept like a rock. She tells wonderfully funny stories of all the things through which she has slept, from bunk raids at camp to rock concerts in stone stadiums when she was seated next to the speakers. So, being the deceitful determined pre-teen that I was, I would sneak into her room in the morning, open the drawer where she kept the cover-up and TAKE SOME. I never got caught. *triumphant grin* Chanukah was coming. I requested cosmetics. One night, my wrapped gift was soft. It felt like a tube. It felt JUST LIKE my sister’s coverup makeup. My heart began pounding. I KNEW my dream was coming true. YES YES YES!!!!! No more sneaking into her room in the morning. No more lies and fear and deceit. My eyes shone, I smiled, I ripped the paper open, salivating. It was a tube of hand lotion. Do you know, as I type that, I still feel the ache in my chest. The disappointment. The overwhelming unhappiness. I think I smiled at my mother. I hope I smiled and said thank you. But all I remember, to this day, which I have to say is (gulp) decades later – the total “this gift stinks how could you possibly give me this and think I’d want it”.
Flash forward. I’m a mom. I don’t believe much in Chanukah gifts. I’ve tried to teach my son this. I thought he “got it”. Actually, my memory is that he got it. But we were talking the other day and he reminded me of his own coverup makeup story. Apparently he really really REALLY wanted an xbox. Game cube? I don’t remember. Some such thing. I’d thought I’d made it clear that was NOT happening. I guess I didn’t communicate that properly. I’d found an adorable “make your own bug” kit at a craft show. My son is so creative, clever, artistic. I thought he would have a blast inventing bugs. *grin* You can see this unfolding, can’t you. I gave him the gift. He was ungracious, to say the least. I took back the gift. Yeah, that was wrong. I was hurt and angered by his attitude. He was hurt and angered by my attitude and lack of understanding. In case you are wondering – we have both moved on and forgiven each other. I think. I know that he will never forget that disappointment just as I will never forget the hand lotion.
Is there a point to this post? Yes. When what you get is not what you wanted – whether it’s a tangible object or the reaction to what you gave – try to take a moment and forgive the giver. I am trying to realize that what I got was indeed a gift, not a present. It’s not what I craved. But in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones:
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need