Everyone loves to receive gifts. We also love to give them, but there is no getting away from the fact that receiving one, especially from someone we love, is special.
As the mother of four sons (and one daughter), receiving gifts was not an everyday affair and, when it did occur, the offerings were sure to be… well, special. Definitely not the usual box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers. And so the gifts that came from my sons were long remembered and treasured.
The Big Brown Vase
As our two eldest boys grew older and developed a growing sense of familial responsibility, they became aware of the importance of remembering Imma’s birthday. One year they decided it was time to actually go out and buy something. They just didn’t know what to buy. After serious deliberation, they decided on a vase. They figured a vase was always useful. Their purchase necessitated skipping a class in their respective yeshivot (they learned in two different places) and arranging to meet in town where they proceeded by foot to the Old City of Jerusalem. With limited funds available, they thought they’d find a decent bargain in the Arab Shuk. And they did. A big, dull, brown, ceramic vase. All vases may be useful, but useful items are not necessarily aesthetically pleasing. This was definitely not a vase I would have chosen. It made the flowers look sad. But I used it faithfully, Shabbos after Shabbos, waiting for it to break. It seemed to last forever.
However, all “good things” come to an end. When it finally fell and cracked, I put it on top of the kitchen cabinets. Throwing it away would have been a desecration of my boys’ love. It took moving to a new house to send it to its eternal resting place where it could finally disintegrate and return to dust. But the brown memory remains and warms the cockles of my motherly heart.
A Card Of Sewing Needles
Ever practical and never one to miss a good deal, our third offspring often came home with interesting things he had acquired. Some of the “things” were alive. Like dogs, snakes, turtles and various insects he “got for cheap.” And as a highly sociable and loving kid, he kept his eyes open for gifts for people he liked. And he found them. One day he presented me with a card full of needles he bought for a shekel from a poor peddler on the street. (“It was a mitzvah to buy from him.”)
Believe it or not, for the past 35 years, I have been using this card of unusual sewing needles. Big, thick, long needles with huge eyes for upholstery; round needles for things that need to be sewn round (you can’t imagine how useful round needles are!) and extra long needles with long, skinny eyes. I treasure them all. All this for one shekel.
The Perfect Perfume Tray
Son Number Four was more inspired. One day he presented me with a small plastic tray. It almost looked like crystal (if you didn’t look too close). “You can put your fancy perfume bottle on it,” he said. Indeed! I had a crystal perfume bottle which had belonged to my mother a”h. It stood on her dresser all through my childhood. The bottle sparkled and held a hint of fairy castles and faraway places. I never used it myself, but I treasured it. It deserved an authentic crystal tray, but plastic transformed by love turns into crystal.
This son also bought me a “real china” knickknack – a mamma goose sheltering her gosling under her wing. When he saw it (another peddler on the street), he thought it would be a wonderful addition to my Mother Goose collection. (In Yiddish, a ganz is a goose and somehow, throughout the years, I have amassed a trove of Ganz-geese in my breakfront.) China his goose is not; a gift of love it is.
A Girl’s Gift – Bina Yeteyra…
My daughter, unlike her brothers, has bought me many daughterly gifts over the years. Each was creative and aesthetic, and quite a few were even useful. But the best gift she gives is her bina yeteyra – her feminine gift of wisdom. Like many wonderful husbands, mine is somewhat clueless when it comes to buying gifts. Fortunately, he has a daughter who, from a young age, always seemed to know what gifts to give. Not only does she advise her father and mother, but she’s also a fount of ideas for her brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews as well. She gets it right every time. And so I am the happy recipient of many lovely items from my husband, thanks to his daughter’s good sense, timing and taste.
Last But Most Definitely Not Least…
There are the “gifts” from the new generations. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren who fill up the refrigerator door, the sukkah walls and the big memo board in my room with cards for Rosh Hashanna; pictures of just about everything (not always recognizable but posted for all to see); things hanging and pasted, cut and glued and sprinkled with natznatzim – sparkly stuff that sticks to your hands and clothing and face but adds immeasurable beauty to their creative efforts. I used to save everything until I ran out of space and offered it all to their parents, free of charge. There weren’t too many takers, so the boxes went, but the memories remained.
So remember… a diamond may be a girl’s best friend, but no stone can compare with the warm, glowing gifts of love we receive from our own, homegrown jewels.