Friday, November 06, 2020

The Thought That Counts

I was sorting out my cupboard today, trying to put away summer clothes and bring warmer things nearer to hand. In the ensuing jumble I found two little packages. They were gifts I bought for Dana and Shuki when I first got here. 

I don't know when I'll see them next and the contents will have to stay packed for many moons yet, but the packages made me smile at my whimsy. The three of us tend to buy small gifts when we go to new places. We don't do it every time but when we do, it's always gifts for the other two in our trio. We've known each other two decades now and the friendship is changing with time and our circumstances, but it's a familiar, comforting sort of relationship. Maybe we share less, don't reach out enough but we know when we do reach out, there will be one of us available.

Many years ago Mejopishi told me that these little souvenirs tell you who you think about when you're away -- and who thinks of you. Which is not to say a relationship is meaningless if you don't get a souvenir, of course, but it's an interesting perspective. 

From childhood, too, Ma made sure we were appreciative of any efforts people made for us. She reminded us that nobody owed us anything; if anybody did gift us something, we were expected to be duly grateful. It sounds sweet written down like this but in practice it meant a lot of wearing of clothes that I privately considered hideous, and the writing of many, many thank you letters, and remembering who gave me what so I could wear it when I visited them next, or send them photographs of the item in loving use. It was a lot of work. 

Looking back though, especially now that we're all older and I'm expected to give now more than to receive, I don't regret any of it. People really did owe us nothing and yet I grew up with awesome toys, clothes from abroad, birthday cards and phone calls. There was so much love.

V and I were overwhelmed with gifts when we got married. It was a relief of sorts to have our mothers portion off some of the largesse to share with friends and family. The remaining gifts got us through well over a decade of housekeeping and child-rearing. Giving them away hurt when we left India but I consoled myself with the thought of having enjoyed them for the years that I did have them, and loving and using them well, from linens to household goods to clothes. They were given to us with love and we used everything with love too.

One of the few wedding gifts I brought to Estonia is a little embroidered sleeveless coat. Somehow, I never wore it in India (it was too big when I got it aged 23 and weighing 55 kg!) but today it fits me fine and reminds me of home and people who loved me and mine enough to buy me pretty things for my wedding. And really, some of those gifts told their own stories. A very pretty beaded satin evening bag was a little soiled, by age, not use, and clearly not new. The giver was an elderly lady who had known better days. I'd never even have noticed if she gave me nothing, so I was really touched that she gave me something she had clearly treasured over the years herself.

I've come to realise that when it comes to gifts, I am a most appreciative recipient. It's very rarely that I question the giver's motive or the cost of the gift itself or any such thing. I'm just happy to be remembered, as Mejopishi put it. I'm always touched when people remember to get my boys things too. Teaching them to be appreciative makes me understand how hard my mother worked to instil this gratitude in me, but I hope they get there one day. That even if they aren't especially thrilled with the item, they can still revel in the love that prompted the gift. That, when it comes to giving and receiving, life is a lot sweeter if you can find the thought that counts in the gift in your hands.

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