My mother was a giver. The woman loved to give. The occasion never mattered – weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Ground Hog Day, Arbor Day or no occasion at all.
She was always thinking about who might enjoy what. She once bought a deluxe toy firetruck that had flashing lights, sirens and a ladder, and kept it on a closet shelf for months until a nephew retired from the fire department.
She always wrapped her gifts with loveliness and care. Sometimes she’d take wedding gifts to the gift wrap counter at the department store thinking they could do a better job. She didn’t really believe they could do a better job, she was just checking to make sure her own skills still rivaled theirs.
Thoughtfulness and creativity went into the gifts she gave and she appreciated a thank you note. Once she sent out a note to family members, her own deadbeat children and grandchildren who had not acknowledged gifts, stating that they were now on her “Fecal Roster” and would not be removed until she had received a proper thank you.
Even if you were a cad and didn’t send a thank you, she’d give you another gift the next chance she had. She figured bad manners were your problem, not hers.
The funny thing is, she didn’t come from a gift-giving background. She grew up in a large farm family during the Depression. She said she used to dread going back to school after Christmas because the teacher would always have them write about what they got for Christmas. Not being the sort to wallow in self-pity, my mother made up some fine stories brimming with an opulence unknown to the county.
She taught us to give, too. She told us not to be cheap or cut corners—and those weren’t suggestions; they were orders.
Every time Mom and Dad drove over to visit, there would be a ritual with all of us gathering in the driveway as they unloaded luggage and “a few things” she threw in for the family. There was always something for the kids, often a big container of homemade chocolate chip cookies or a couple of bags of candy that I said would rot their teeth and, quite frankly, was too cheap to buy. They weren’t gifts for any particular occasion, they were simply “Isn’t life great?” gifts.
My mother wasn’t a schmaltzy person, but one spring when they came to visit, she handed me a gift bag billowing with tissue paper. Inside was an etching on glass that read: “A Special Daughter. So many of the good times we remember from the past happened because of you. You’ve brought laughter and joy to our lives and so much love to our hearts. The most precious things we can wish for you are the things you have given us . . . Happiness and Love.”
She mentioned that she’d given one to my sister-in-law as well.
Not long after that visit, Mom suffered a brain aneurysm and died.
Mom was a great gift giver, but the gifts we will always remember her for were her love for life and her love for us.