What Makes A Gift Special?

What makes a special gift?

What’s the most special gift you’ve ever received?

This holiday season 2021, I’ve started asking people this question. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Christmas topped the list.

As I listened to their gift stories, I noticed a common thread as to what makes a special present.

l.  There is an element of surprise or the unexpected.

2.  The gift showed thoughtfulness or effort.

3.  The gift said: “I know what you like. I get you!

What did not matter was the expense of the gift, even if the gift did cost a lot.

Handmade or experiential gifts were frequently mentioned. A love poem. A trip to the Grand Canyon.

Childhood gifts were often a long-coveted item. A chemistry set. A locket. A Cabbage Patch Doll.

Here’s the story of my favorite childhood gift. 

Growing up, my brothers and I received a small present or gelt (coins) on each night of Chanukah. My parents saved the best for last. The year I was eight, I unwrapped my 8th night gift to find a great surprise. A ballerina music box. A tiny dancer inside a glass dome with a white and gold skirt. She spun around to a waltz from the Broadway show, Carousel, the same song I had danced to in my first ballet recital.

This alone would have delighted me. What made the gift most special, though, is the back story.

A few months prior, while on a family trip, I spotted this Swiss-made music box in a fancy gift shop. I begged my mother to buy it.

“It’s lovely,” she said, “but much too expensive. I’m sorry, sweetheart.” 

I remember the feeling of longing and sadness. So unfair! I believed this one-of-a-kind music box was meant to be mine. Now it would go to some other girl who loved ballet.

Weeks passed and the pretty music box was soon forgotten.

That is, until it magically appeared in my hands the last night of Chanukah. 

Surprise. Thoughtfulness. Effort. I get you! 

This cherished gift had all these elements. It’s no wonder that I’ve continued to love music boxes all these years.

When they were young, my children liked to hear this story every Chanukah (with Mom’s dramatic effects, of course.)

I shared the music box with each daughter when she began ballet lessons.

I’ve tried to emulate this gift-giving style for my children. In turn, I’ve seen them do the same with family and friends. They enjoy hunting for that perfect gift that says, “I get you”.

One Chanukah, my then thirteen year-old daughter surprised me with a copy of a rare, out-of-print book I had so loved as little girl.

And this Chanukah, my son surprised his younger sister with an inscribed Harry Potter music box.

I get you!

What was your favorite gift?

Sending you readers the gift of words.

Happy Holidays!

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