The Hunt for the Perfect Present. Like an elusive art form how do some people just get it right? It’s not about how much they spent, it’s that they “get you“. They found something that is makes you smile and feel warm inside – part gift, part magic. Put a pin in that thought, and let me tell you a quick story.
As a kid, my sister and I loved the holidays – in Hawaii it meant rain, cool breezes, and a LOT of food and family parties. We would look forward to all the jokes singing and laughing, and seeing wonderful people we didn’t get to see all the time. Now, in Hawaii, close friends are called ‘calabash’ family, after the Hawaiian tradition where family all ate out of the same calabash, a large food bowl the family shared food from. If you were close enough to eat from the calabash, you were family. So all close friends and family are ‘aunty’ ‘uncle’ or ‘cousin’ – it can be confusing for newcomers!
Next door to us lived our neighbour, Uncle John. He was a well-known artist, a celebrity locally and known internationally. As an adult I even came across his paintings when I worked in Tokyo. But to two little girls, that really didn’t matter. He was a bear of a man who gave us big smiles, hugs and kisses whenever we saw him. We adored him.
Every Christmas, the family would gather at our house. And every Christmas, after his society parties, Uncle John would walk over to our house to join our extended family. Early on he started bringing us little stuffed animals. Every year he outdid himself by bringing bigger and bigger animals. As Christmas drew close, our excitement would build to unbearable heights to see what he would arrive with until one year he brought us a giant monkey and a giant leopard. They were at least 4 feet long! We were elated. Over the moon. Those huge animals were beyond our wildest expectations! The year after we couldn’t imagine what he would bring, uncertain if there would be anything he could possibly find that would top that – a little nervous that now that he’d brought the best the world could possibly offer, what was next?
As it turns out, it was time for us to become young ladies. No further stuffed animals did we receive from Uncle John. Instead, on one of his many trips, that year he brought us handmade necklaces from Paris. Each glass ‘bead’ was a beautiful flower or leaf individually formed and strung together to form a delicate, fairytale garland. Feminine and exquisite it was a kind of luxury we hadn’t really been exposed to before.
Tragically, we were still young enough to prioritise fibrefill-stuffed polyester animals over fine, handmade jewelry. Yes, I’m embarrassed to say, as children, we were disappointed in those beautiful necklaces!
AND YET. Of the few things I still have from when I was young, after all my moves between states, countries and jobs, I still have this necklace. In fact, both my sister and I still have many of the jewelry pieces he gave us. Why is that, when we were so terribly disappointed? In retrospect, they were exactly the best gifts; thoughtful, hand-selected, not to mention a lovely introduction to what places like Europe might be like. Possibly where my love affair with Europe began? Its just that at the time, we still had unicorns and fairies dancing in our heads.
I could never throw them away. Pretty, and special, yes, but more so, they were selected with care, and thoughtfully brought back to Hawaii. They held a story about places he was experiencing and that he chose to share with us. And now that he’s no longer here, I think of him when I see them.
And so. That tricky thing about gifts. Perfect gifts are often difficult to choose. When you hit it, there’s really no better feeling for the giver, when you see the recipient’s look of elated joy. But one of the reasons they are so satisfying is that they really aren’t that easy to hit on the head. Can’t manage the ‘perfect’ gift? Then give a thoughtful one. For people who really matter, it’s rarely about cost. It’s about showing you’ve thought about them, invested time to consider who they are and what they might appreciate.
Consideration and thought means precious time invested in thinking about someone. Thoughtfulness is likely to give you the most lasting and impactful gift there is.