Thursday, January 1, 2009

thoughtful Christmas giving

One of my favourite aspects of this Christmas was noting what thoughtful giftgivers I've raised. I'm not saying this is necessarily my doing, nor am I pleased because I'm getting good stuff (although I hope there's some credit to me, and I don't hate getting great gifts). Rather, I'm happy to see this because although, yes, there is far too much consumerism attached to the "Christmas spirit," giving thoughtfully and generously and meaningfully is an important way of building and maintaining social connections and community. Gift economies were an important part of maintaining social structures and distributing wealth long before the market economy existed, and if, today, the gift seems too much marred by its association with the market, its role in keeping us together is still manifest in our family.

The wrapping paper that enclosed Girlcook's gift to Pater and I testified to the importance of gift-giving in her personal history: in red, green, and white felt pen, she tattooed a catalogue of Christmas presents we've given her through the years over the plain brown butcher's paper. "The Penguins!" exclaims the wrap, remembering a silly, plasticky, battery-operated toy that had fascinated 3-year old Megan so much in the mall that we decided it was worth overcoming our scruples about it. In reality, it didn't last more than a few months, if that, but it's obviously held a place in her memory for much longer.
Some of the gifts I can barely remember, but Meg does. I'm especially pleased that not only the books we chose mattered, but the fact that they were always inscribed carefully (the white letters below read "all the inscribed books"

The tiny Grant Leier painting (shouting the message to "Trust Your Own Vision") we splurged on to help get her through a Christmas on her own in Montreal still has pride of place in her home, near "the blue blown glass ornament" from an earlier Christmas.

Meg's gift to us equally mixed the bought with the thought, so to speak: she had purchased a wall frame by Umbra and filled it with family photos -- her plan is to make copies of our Portugal photos, but she needed to surprise us first, ask for the photos later. What a sensitive, memorable gift! One of many I'll remember, alongside the delicious basket of goodies from Rhiannon, a basket that included two spectacular bottles of wine, great cheese, biscuits, snacks, and deluxe hand cream for me, Kiehl's shaving cream for him. More wine coming, apparently, from Zach & Joey, in a case they put together based on their experience in the hospitality industry -- again thought as much as bought. I can hardly imagine how Bronwen, Adam, & Nola managed to find time to shop at all, but they gave Pater a much-needed running-in-the-rain jacket from Lululemon and me a richly purple sweatshirt-comfy cardigan I've been resisting at Aritzia. All gifts of attention to who we are and what we do.

One last photo: this one is of the wrap Megan made for Adam's gift. Rather than trace material gifts he's given her, she's remembered all the moments that made her sister's boyfriend her friend and turned a brother-in-law into a brother. A thoughtful gift wrapped in the gift of thoughts! -- may there be many more of these in our family's future and in yours.


  1. I love this gift wrap idea! How thoughtful.

  2. now, that's what i call gift giving!

  3. No, thank you, Girlcook!
    Isn't it a neat idea, Nanflan?
    And Jane, yes, I think so too, and it makes me feel better about some of the stuff you were speculating about in your latest post.

  4. I would have to keep that wrapping too, it's a present in itself. You did well, (in all senses of the word!).

  5. Thanks Cybill -- I was so pleased!

  6. lol .. i wondered if my post had anything to do with yours ..

  7. you're influential, Jane -- but you already knew that, didn't you? ;-)

  8. speaking of thoughtful would be impressed with your little i am with my beautiful nieces wrapping paper that she knit me a cylindrical shaped gorgeous purple...and it took me awhile as I opened the package and didn't want to say thank you for the .....footwarmer...I am using it today at work under my feet....she is knitting a scarf now...if you have any scrap wool...:)....she is the first of my children to take up knitting and stick with it...cartoons at 6:30 the dog, and Grace on the couch are a morning staple...

  9. Awww! I'd love to see her knitting and I like to think I had some part in encouraging her last summer. Tell her we'll have to go through my stash together and see what she'd like -- did your footwarmer happen to come in fuzzy pink? (you saw the pictures of her knitting that over here, right?)
    love you, sweetie!

  10. Okay, I'm putting myself up for adoption into Mater's Familia...

    What a great bunch you all are!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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