I've always been a masterful gift-giver, even when I was young. My mother always insisted that cash was impersonal and a gift should be more personal than just a $20 bill. Whenever a birthday approached I tried to think of different ways to give a unique gift, and if I had to give cash, how I could make it memorable. One year for my friend Jay's birthday I gave him a piece of poster board with $10 in coins glued to it that spelled out a message in pennies, quarters, nickels and dimes. He kept that heavy sheet of coins for years and it's probably still in his parents' basement somewhere. Another time I rolled up hundreds of little sheets of paper with hand-drawn images and hand-written messages. These little notes were filled with inside jokes and humor that took me hours. A ten dollar bill was rolled up in one of the notes at the bottom. Of course, he could have stopped when he found the money, but he didn't. He opened them all. He continued, not out of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but because he honestly wanted to see what they all said. The money was forgettable, but the gift wasn't.
A recent Christmas, my sister and I decided we needed to disguise the easily recognizable CDs and DVDs that we bought our cousins. Several times I have given them gifts that were wrapped boxes nestled within a larger box like Russian dolls. This time, my sister and I developed the "epic" idea of transferring the ownership. Usually, we open presents in order, from youngest to oldest, one at a time. This time when our cousins opened their present from both of us, they found two smaller presents, one from each of us. When they opened those, they found that they had switched, so the present was addressed to the other cousin. This could be a mistake. Upon opening another level, the present said it was for my sister or myself. We took the presents and opened them at our next turn. Then the presents went to my Aunt and Uncle for another round. Finally, they returned to our respective cousins for their gift. This whole process took several hours of planning and wrapping to complete on Christmas eve.
This last Christmas I had moved to California. I wasn't home for Christmas. I sent a package to my family with some gifts that I found over here. It wasn't anything expensive or huge, but I wanted to get them something. My mom has complained to me for years that she's never seen "The Color Purple" and how she misses it every time it's on TV. So this year, I bought my mom a DVD of "The Color Purple" so she could watch it. I was really proud of this gift and I knew it would be perfect.
My mom sent me a package. I didn't want anything. I had just moved across the country and sold most of my belongings that I couldn't move anyway. Inside was a small book about Michigan written in the style of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", a gingerbread man spatula, a tiny briefcase with a check and diabetic socks.
If you don't know what diabetic socks are, they are socks that are not restrictive or binding and allow blood to flow more easily to the feet. I don't know why my mother sent me diabetic socks. Someone who told me that cash is a meaningless gift, sent me a really meaningless gift: diabetic socks. Or perhaps the gift is not meaningless? Maybe it's a warning about the dangers of diabetes. Perhaps it was an omen of diabetes to come.
My mother said that I'm "the best gift-giver in the world" and according to my mother, my sister agrees as well. It's not difficult. It takes a little time, and creativity and getting to know somebody. It's hard to receive diabetic socks from someone you planned an amazing gift for. It makes you wonder if they even care.