It’s that time of the year again. The time when we worry about gifts. What to give, and how to send thank-you cards to people who have gifted us terrible things we can’t get rid of. Last year I was gifted a quiz book on cricket for young fans, presumably on the assumption that being a cricket writer that would be the kind of book I would most appreciate. It may have been acknowledgement that one would be a young fan always.
"Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift," I wrote to my misguided friend (now ex-friend), "I have always wanted a fly swatter." I hope that confused him sufficiently; at any rate I haven’t heard back from him. He has turned bald (this is not connected to the gift), and I am looking forward to gifting him a comb this year.
Gifting time is also re-gifting time. The value of a gift is calculated not in dollars or pounds, but in how quickly you can re-gift a useless one. Most people have stories of how they re-gifted a gift to the person who had gifted it to them in the first place, and mine is a variation on that theme. Here’s what happened.
It was a cold and dark morning. The flowers were doing their stuff, the insects theirs, and there was the sound of screeching brakes in the distance when this family came over to wish us and give us Christmas presents. "It’s a paperweight," the male member of the group whispered in my ear, depriving me of the joy of tearing the wrapper and pretending to be happy.
Now I have more paperweights than an average table can accommodate or indeed an average room can. Under the pretext of answering the phone, I went inside, unpacked the gift, repacked it differently and presented it to his son. It must have taken all of six minutes. It was as if I was merely the conduit for a generational shift. That was another friend lost.
Perhaps that is the real intention of gift-giving. Not to tell friends how much you love and care for them, but to ensure you don’t meet the ones you don’t want to meet again. Every year it is useful to clean house, as it were, and eliminate those you have no desire to "catch up with" (as I believe the expression is).
You remember the T-shirts that were once popular: "My friend went to Paris and all he got me was this lousy T-shirt"? I plan to gift paperweights this year with the message: "My friend went to Paris and he didn’t even get me a lousy T-shirt."
Happy paperweights, my friends.
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