You Are the Gift!

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

On this the twenty-first year anniversary of my first holiday season without what are thought to be tangibly traditional gifts, I can truly say that, I, Betsy, remember it well. The occasion changed my life forever.  It was October 12, 1988. Mommy, Berenice Barbara sat across from me at the kitchen table. This was just as it had been all of my days. We chatted cheerfully. Conversation between us was never superficial. Nonetheless, for us, serious contemplations were fun. A pleasure for the profound has not left me. It was and is the reason I revel in the company of my Mom.

On this one extraordinary occasion, Mommy declared my family would no longer celebrate any of the traditional holidays as we had. No gifts would be exchanged in the future. Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, whatever we might wish to call the customary holiday, in our family home presents would not appear. None would be purchased or placed under a tree. Trinkets would not sit on a shelf, nor would these be stashed in a closet for a charitable sharing on a December day. The season of gift giving would not be ours.

Once the words entered my ears, I exclaimed in horror. I inquired; why would this be our newly adopted truth.

In her defense, Berenice Barbara offered a dismissive statement that I knew was suspect. Mommy had never thought the notion of age appropriateness a wise or welcome one. She forever spoke of the need to honor individuals for whoever they might be. My Mom often discussed; people need not be constrained by a chronological age. Yet, perchance her experience of my reaction caused her to offer a rapid retort. “You are too old for presents,” she proclaimed. “Too old?” I responded. For minutes, we talked to no obvious avail.

It seemed nothing could be done to change my Mom’s mind, thankfully. Her steadfast stance evoked my evolution.

Days later I learned, her own distress for what had recently occurred in our lives encouraged this unexpected and ultimately, very welcome reflection.

While it is true, on that day, Mommy and I had our first and only significant argument, I am grateful for what emerged. The lesson I learned was a truer value than any bobble or bangle. Occasions are worthwhile when one feels no sense of obligation to give or receive. Gifts are given daily in every exchange.

A word, a touch, a look, the mere presence of a person can mean more to those who bequeath and receive than any material object might. This veracity is one that fills our hearts, our heads, our bodies, and souls.

More than a score has passed since that date. I look back on what, for me, was once an unbearable idea. Today, I treasure what has been my ideal.

To those beings who I experience as beloved, beautiful, inside and out, to individuals familiar to me, and who intentionally interact in a manner that honors reciprocal reverence, you are the gift. Your presence in my life is all that I cherish.

I thank you Mommy! I like and love you more than mere words might ever begin to express. You, just as all beings, are genuinely a gift!

2 responses to “You Are the Gift!

  1. lovely sentiment, Betsy. I think I’ve managed to slightly influence my Dad to rethink the idea of gifts – slightly. he’s still very big on cards – but I appealed to him thru his tummy.

    For me, the best part of the holidays is the FOOD!


  2. Dearest Rady . .

    I relate. I too appreciate cards, although I prefer the environmentally friendly electronic salutations. As for food and some of the lessons I learned in the course of this transformation, I share what I wrote to another. . . .

    I thank you so much. It is my experience that the expectations are self-imposed. Ideas and inspirations could be considered the truer treasure.

    Some may not appreciate what we think wise and wonderful. I have learned this topic must be discussed fully if it is to be understood by the giver and recipient.

    Most may not realize how much they, as the person they are gives greatness. I share two stories.

    For decades now, Jen’s Mom is given a gift that she does not want. A close acquaintance collects as she loves, china dolls. This individual gives these as gifts. Jennifer’s mother has no interest in the child’s toy. This helped Jen to realize it is vital to give what the receiver wants. Not what she may wish for herself.

    Jennifer’s gift to me is her presence in my life. When she has bestowed a tangible something it is soooooooooo me, not her.

    Another very close friend of many decades cannot seem to get past the thought that, unlike her parents, or her perception of them, she must be generous. For so long I have said to her, she is the gift!

    Nonetheless, she thinks that her presence is not enough. One year she invited me to her home, purchased my favorite foods, and allowed me the privilege to cook for myself in her kitchen. As one who is far more selective than a vegan, and someone who also is one, this meant more to me than any material object might have.

    I thanked her profusely. Then, after a wondrous meal and great conversation with this glorious person, she handed me a package. To this day, the item that I received troubles me. It is not that I do not like it. I do. However, for me, the gift was not my pleasure. All that she had done to honor me, to give me what I wanted was far more meaningful than a purchased or even a handcrafted gift.

    I wish we, as a society would learn to treasure relationships and not the “rewards” we receive for no reason other than people feel obligated to give.

    I wonder if much conversation is the only way to advance awareness . . . just a thought.

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