Yesterday I talked with someone about our process of getting rid of stuff, and she asked if I’d given up things that had been gifts. I don’t think I answered the question with enough sensitivity and I woke up this morning thinking I must have sounded heartless and ungrateful.
If something given to me as a gift is not being used or displayed, I’m probably not thinking about it either. Merely possessing something somewhere in my home is not honoring my relationship with the gift giver. Beyond that, we’ve all probably given and received gifts simply because there was a gift-giving occasion, not because the gift was otherwise meaningful.
When I turned 40, my husband P. organized a wonderful backyard celebration. He invited my best friend and her husband, who had recently had back surgery (I was touched that he made such an effort to celebrate with me, although in hindsight he should have stayed at home recuperating). P., who is not typically a shopper or cook, prepared a delicious meal, and my friend brought a fancy cake. P. had a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase, a card with something sweet and flattering written inside, and a festive balloon, and he’d set all of this up so that it was ready when I came home from work. The pièce de résistance was that P. had delivered the child to another friend’s house so that we could have a rare grown-ups only meal. I can’t imagine a better birthday present.
I am fortunate to live in material comfort (<– choked a little on that, as I could just as easily describe it as an embarrassment of riches). So I tell the story of the birthday party to illustrate and remind myself that relationships and experiences are now more valuable to me, and longer lasting, than gifts of stuff.