I was given some really wonderful gifts for my birthday this year, which got me thinking about birthdays and holidays past, and about the nature of gift-giving in general.

Through rigorous scientific research (read: about five minutes of googling) I confirmed my general assumption that gift-giving is a long-standing human tradition that has evolved (and, one may argue, de-evolved) over time. And rather than cynically point out how over-commercialized our consumerist, consumption-based society has become (alliteration ftw), I’d rather reflect on two especially fabulous gifts I’ve both given and received.

(Gosh, I’m introspective lately, aren’t I? Must be all those ch-ch-ch-changes.)

  • In pure scale, I’ll probably never top putting together a surprise trip to Vegas for D’s thirtieth birthday. It wasn’t the coordination involved that was so difficult, it was my commitment to secrecy. I think the core motivator with a lot of gift-giving is the awareness that you’re about to do something awesome for another person you care about, and you honestly want them to enjoy it as soon as possible. With something that big, it was hard not to just spill the awesome beans sooner.
  • My friend Abby wrote last week about the American Girl dolls, and when I was about 8 I was given Kirsten. No, not just given. Totally completely surprised by. This was back in the day when American Girl was just a mail-order catalog called Pleasant Company, and when I saw the order form still in the back of the book I *knew* I hadn’t gotten her that year. Except that I had. My parents called the 1-800 number and blew my 8 year old mind. We still talk about it.

I should note that both of these incidents involve so-called “surprises”, which normally I’m totally against. But Avi pointed out to me the other day that surprises only suck when you know they’re coming but you don’t have all the details. (Ironically he went on to totally ruin my birthday surprise by being almost-5 years old and asking if D thought it would be wrapped. Oops.) In reality, the greatest gifts are often true surprises, balancing the awesome with a heavy dose of spontaneity.

So when was the last time you were honestly surprised by an awesome gift? Or better yet, when did you last do that for someone else?


4 thoughts on “Present(s)

  1. My best childhood surprise was getting a Cabbage Patch kid from my grandfather the Christmas they debuted. I hadn’t even asked for one since I was in 5th grade and I feared everyone woud think I was too old for one, but I really wanted one. I still have her upstairs in my bedroom.

    The best surprise as an adult was when Bill took me to visit his aunt & uncle. They had just remodelled and were showing me around the house. In the last room was a giant oak easel Bill commissioned his uncle to build for me as a Christmas present. Other than my children, it’s the best thing he’s ever given me.

    • Okay, the easel? Awe.some.

      I got my first Cabbage Patch Kid from Zayers in Monroeville. We waited in a looooooong line and they were just tossing them to people. No one got to pick which ones they got, and mine had a white dress with pastel pink and yellow trim with red tights. It bothered me tremendously.

  2. The best gift I can think of lately was a nice circle gift. Mom bought me a plane ticket for my trip out to Bend Oregon to see my France girls for our 10th anniversary. But the real part of the gift was that *I* was the surprise for two of them. The look on their faces when they figured out that it was me standing with Maggie at the airport was worth the 3 months of secretly plotting and trying so hard not to tell. And the instant tears of joy from all of us was one of the best girlfriend moments I’ve ever had.
    Of course, the very first time Mike showed up in DC completely unannounced before anyone knew we were dating was pretty unreal too.
    I’m not a big fan of surprise parties or surprise gifts (gifts for no reason is a different matter all together) – but I absolutely love showing up and surprising people. It’s nice to see their reactions and know how much you matter. Friendship is a seriously awesome gift.

  3. I got the Felicity American Girl doll as a gift, but I think it was more a gift that my mom bought herself rather then for me. She’s waaaay into Colonial Williamsburg (I had been there 5 times by age 12). I think she still has it./her.

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