I come from a long line of gift-givers. We learned as kids that giving presents was one vital way to show love. My mother was generous—for Easter, we didn’t just get one basket, we got two. One was from the bunny and one from her. When we opened an enormous gift box on a birthday, it wouldn’t just have one item in it—it would have a sweater, and matching shirt and pants, and sometimes coordinating earrings or a necklace. Dad wasn’t so skilled at picking our gifts, so my mother would tear pages from catalogs and circle what she liked, giving him enough variety so he could still make choices. She was very organized. To make sure she was also fair, she’d label the underside of Christmas presents with an initial and a number next to the taped edge. K-1 roughly equaled the value of S-1 and M-1, and my sister and brother and I would open the presents at the same time.
I follow the tradition by giving my son gifts even for silly holidays such as Valentine’s Day. This year, I bought him a set of Alf DVDs—remember that ’80s TV show? D. discovered it on Hulu.com, and has since become an Alf addict. I didn’t expect anything from him on Valentine’s Day, but this year he handed me a small, pink gift bag. Inside, there were two kinds of perfume and some gold bangle bracelets.
“You are a great gift-giver,” I said, hugging him. “You know that?” He is really growing up.
D. smiled. “I like this one,” he said, holding up a bottle of Jovan musk. “This one reminds me of Menga.” He sprayed the perfume in the air. “Doesn’t it remind you of her?”
The perfume does remind me of my mother, and I’ve been wearing it a lot since then. But the best gift I got from D. was for Christmas. I had lost my leather driving gloves before the holiday, and was distressed I couldn’t find them. At one point, D. said, “Don’t go buying yourself some new ones—you never know what you will get for Christmas!” D. is only thirteen, and he’s not particularly good at keeping gift ideas a secret. He hints ahead of time what he bought, by saying something like, “Do you like silver and black together in a bracelet?”
So I suffered for a few weeks without my gloves. Christmas morning, D. was very excited to give me my gifts—he had bought me a scarf and some earrings. D. then said, “There’s one more thing in there,” pointing to my stocking. I reached in the toe, and pulled out a pair of leather gloves rolled up into a ball. But these gloves were not new—they looked like my missing ones!
“You found my leather gloves?” I asked.
D. couldn’t stop smiling. “No,” he said, “I took them as a joke and hid them in your stocking, and they’ve been there since before Christmas. I kept thinking you would find them!”
I started to laugh. Here I thought D. couldn’t keep a secret. Yet this time, the secret was on me.So there’s a strategy no one in my family had thought of before now. If you need a little love, take something on the sly, and then give it back, with great gusto and flair. That’s one way to make sure your mother knows you love her.