Saturday, May 10, 2008

Simple Gifts

This tax season taught me a lot more than just “always hire an accountant.” It also taught me that I spend a ridiculous amount of money on other people. I’ve always prided myself on being a good gifter. I mean, I spend a lot of time carefully selecting my gifts. After all, you want to give the person something that is an extension of your feelings for them, right?...

Maybe that is why I hate Christmas. There is just so much build up. I cause myself entirely too much anxiety trying to pick out gifts for all the important people in my lives. I mean, even gift cards are thought out, as I will usually make them have some sort of “theme.” I refuse to get them just a visa gift card, or a target card. It’s just too vague. And cash?.. Please. I’m not an ATM. If they want cash they can go to a bank.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine in New York City over weddings. I made some comment about buying people “wedding gifts,” and he laughed at me.

“You southerners crack me up…” he said. “You really don’t get it. We give newlywed couples up here money… It isn’t so much about giving them anything they can use; it’s more so about helping the couple recoup their lost expenses. Depending on where the reception is held, and what kind of food they serve, you usually can determine a rational amount of money to gift them.”

This entire concept totally baffled me. You’re supposed to give GIFTS. Something they may want. Something they may need. When did giving someone a gift suddenly become about settling a debt?... It’s not like I am dealing with a bookie or a collection agency or anything. I’m doing something nice for someone special in my life to let them know I was thinking about them. What’s wrong with that?...

When the time came to pick out something for my mother and grandmother for Mother’s Day, I was absolutely dumbfounded. In going with this newly introduced rationale of “gifting,” how do you repay the two women who gave you life?... And then some?...

My search began in the most typical of stomping grounds: The Mall. Maybe I could get her an iPod and some kind of doo-dad that makes it work in her car… but my mom can barely operate a DVD player. So, that’s out. I could get her some cool stuff from Williams Sonoma… but that would just give her and my grandmother even more reason to bake ridiculously rich things that none of us really need to eat. Or maybe I could pick her out a nice outfit at Cache or one of those “mom” stores. Nah.. I wouldn’t even know what size to buy… or what the latest trends are in “Momwear.” My mission at the mall… was a complete bust.

Normally leaving the mall empty handed meant I had accomplished some amazing feat. It meant I had exercised will power and self restraint. I had fought the battle against the devil that is American consumerism.. and won. But this particular outing.. it meant I had failed. How could my creative genius not come up with something as simple as a gift for my own mother? I know it’s the thought that counts.. but I still didn’t want her to feel slighted.

My mom has been there for me when no one else has. I’ve learned things about love, life, and all the stuff in between, that you simply can’t learn from anyone else. My mother has taught me that the in order to be loved, I have to love myself, and that settling is never an option. She’s made the act of forgiveness an art, and showed me sometimes it’s a lot more than just saying sorry. But most importantly, she’s taught me that the glass isn’t half full, or half empty.. but more like.. it’s just not big enough to hold all the love she had for my sister and me.

I can remember the nights she sat up with me going over spelling words, even when I insisted I could do them in my sleep, and even promised I WOULD. There were the Saturday mornings where she and my dad and my grandparents would come to the bowling alley to watch me bowl a 36, and pray for the day that number would enter the triple digit realm. I remember her lecturing my sister for calling some kid at the preschool a ‘silly ass’, and telling her that just because “Peter Pan says it in the play,” it didn’t make it right. (Followed by a “Peter Pan didn’t have a mother, either!!!”) There were the times she would comfort my sister and I when one of our hermit crabs, gerbils, hamsters, bunnies, guinea pigs, rats, and pretty much any other pet a kid could possibly own died, and always made sure they were given the proper burial rights. I remember the nights she spent sitting in the stands watching me conduct my high school band through “One More Time Chick Corea,” until even the title became a little redundant. And I remember the day I left for college, where… even when she tried her best to be happy for me for leaving the nest… she still cried.

It’s weird the moments that come back to you when you start to think of all the things she did that she never had to do. They certainly weren’t listed in the job requirements. The only real basic prerequisite a mother should fulfill is that she love you to the best of her abilities. The rest is all bonus.

I certainly don’t have any kids, but I have a cat.. and she’s still alive.. and that counts for something right? Being a good nurturer just runs in my family, back for as many generations as I can remember. My grandmother moved in with us a little over a year ago. No one will deny that it’s been quite an adjustment for all of us. She and my mother still have their mother daughter moments, which I am sure I will share with them as I grow older. But even despite the generation gap, I still appreciate and respect my grandmother for the marvel that she is. She is the early riser, the overachiever, the master chef, and who could forget the skilled seamstress??... (Did your grandmother ever help you sew a pair of assless chaps for a football game?? Didn’t think so.) I’ve done my best to keep her young, and keep her current. And she has done her best to support me in all my endeavors. I’m not saying she wrote about my Playboy spread in her Christmas letter or anything, but she certainly isn’t ashamed of anything I have done since this whole crazy journey started. Hell, she’s even learning how to use the internet just to watch my clips, and even read emails from time to time. If that’s not love, I dunno what is.

Sometimes when I have been away from home, I can tell it starts to weigh on mom. Hell, it starts to weigh on me. I know it sounds cliché, but my mom truly is my best friend. Who else can I share all my secrets with, and no that another set of ears will never be privy to my classified files? Who else can I bitch about boys, bosses, and bitches to… that I know has been there, done that? Who do I know that will give it to me straight, even when it’s much easier to lie?

Moms don’t get paid overtime to do what they do. They do what they do out of love. They don’t have to do your laundry, make you home cooked meals, or spoil you with love. They do it, because they want to. Why? Because being a mom is the greatest role you can possibly fulfill. God made mom’s to watch us when he’s off tending to the rest of the world. To keep us safe, to keep us happy, and to keep us loved. They are the greatest disciples, shepherds, and preachers of all time. And boy can my mom preach. ;)

Then I got to thinking… maybe you can never truly repay your mother for everything she’s given you, but you can certainly give her credit where credit is due. I could never thank my mother enough for all the personal sacrifices she has made over the past 24 years (and nine months), just to make me the person I am today. 9 months of unstylish maternity wear. 8 years of subjecting her ears to amateur singing, musical-instrument playing, talent shows that lacked.. well.. part of the title. 16 years of chauffeuring til the tires fell off. 20 years of rent-free living, and a hotel that will always leave the light on for me when I’m not on the road. 3 years of being a step mother to one of the bitchiest cats on the planet. And 24 years of learning from the best so maybe one day I can repay the favor of proving she taught me well. When you put it all out there.. a stupid gift that fits in a box simply won’t cut it.

These words are for my mother. And grandmother (if she ever learns what a blog even is). For putting up with me.. and all that that entails. You’ve taught me life isn’t easy, but it can still be all it’s cracked up to be. That I am the creator of my own destiny. That the human heart, though it may break.. is one of the most resilient parts of a person. Thanks for teaching me that even when the times get tough, the only thing you really need to survive… is love.

So you New Yorkers can keep your money, and Southerners can keep your toasters, and coasters, and every other household item in Martha Stewart’s collection. After all, it’s true what they say…

There are just some things money can’t buy.

Love you Mommy and Mommom.

1 comment:

Veritas said...

Simple gifts.
Well you couldn’t be more right than this.
I personally never worried about that kind of stuff, because basically in all of my life I could only count on my mom, my dad the first chance he got he left both me and my mother alone, when I mean alone we really just had each other, my grandfather and grandmother from both sides of the family died when I was very young so in that way I never had the type of support you had Jenn.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for you, that you have a normal functioning family I’m sure that if I had had one I wouldn’t have passed through so much shit in my life.
But hey there are worst cases, right?
Sons and daughters that don’t have anyone, so if I’m blessed with something is that I have a great mother that not only was both father and mother, but she on her own raised me well.
In my country giving money to the newly weds as also become the common practice, long are the days when people recebed all kind of stuff, now it’s just money, I don’t even call it a wedding anymore but rather a big party where one must pay an exit fee so the newly weds can pay for the wedding and the honey moon.
Incredible, isn’t it?
How people took something that was in a way pure, and turn it into a big buffet where every guest has to pay the bill in the end, it’s sad if we look at it really hard, but in a way getting married is also getting out of fashion, and to many young couples they prefer to spend the money they would have to spend in a large party and apply it to something with more use, like a apartment or a house.
I can see the logic in that, many of my friends don’t even think in getting married, they prefer to start building a life together with their mate and one day if things work out alright then they might think of getting married.
Like I said before I’m not a gift giving person, well not material ones, I prefer to show my love to my mother with a very good quality time together, like going on a cruise, or traveling to other parts of the world, I prefer to spend like a month or two just me and my mom together than giving her material things that I know she doesn’t need.
Soon ill be able to buy my own house, with my own money, but even after I left what has been my house for the last years I’m still going to do even more to spend quality time together with my mom.
Because lest face it, my mom is the only real blood family that I’ve got.
My friends, they know that I’m here for them as I know they will also be there for me when I need them.
My gifts to them is simply being there when they need me, I can say I don’t have a huge number of friends but the ones I’ve got are real friends, not does that only remember a person when they are in need or because they have a problem, but real friends that if I spend more than a day without saying nothing or simply not showing up and my cell phone starts ringing to no end, and to me that’s what matters.
Christmas to me is just an excuse to spend time at home eating my mother cooking’s, and damn they are tasty, it’s a good thing I workout because if I didn’t I wouldn’t even be able to exit the door, so on Christmas I go all out and eat and drink until I’m full.
New Year to me simply is more important than Christmas, it represents the end of one stage and the beginning of another, lest face it every year that passes through, means that there’s lesser and lesser time to make something out of our lives.
It’s good to know Jenn, that to you family comes first, that you are still Jenn Sterger a real caring person and not someone that despises her past or her origins because it simply doesn’t suit them anymore, you know of what I’m talking about, you may already have met those kind of people or you have already read about them in the magazines.
To you Jenn the only gift that I can give you is my support and loyalty, I believe that you are going far and that your road of success still is far from reaching an end, I hope that the price of your success doesn’t come to heavy on you, because you know that old saying “There’s always a catch”, believe me I know and I’ve seen people wanting so much out of life that when they gotten what they wish for they ultimately had to pay the price.
So just like the theme of this blog accept the simple gifts that life has to offer you, but don’t demand too much of it, because you might have to pay a price you aren’t willing to pay.
Like always I wish you all the best and a big hug from this admire of yours from thousand of miles away.