When I was a little girl, my father gave me a copy of Marguerite Henry’s All About Horses. He worked for a publishing company and loved books so it wasn’t unusual for me to get one for my birthday or Christmas. I loved this book. In fact, it is sitting on my own daughter’s bookshelf to this day. This book was special to me because I loved horses and it really was ‘all about horses’- the evolution of horses, types of horses, breeding horses, training horses, colors of horses…. back then I wanted to know everything about them and I had THE book! This book was so captivating with its photographs of soldiers on horses, barrel racing, wild horses and fox hunts. Even at the ripe old age of ten, I marked the important sections. I must have really valued this book, because I affixed a library check out form to the front cover and apparently checked it out to one Michelle Sweeney. Good thing she returned it. I have records. I remember this book fondly forty years later. I kept it all these years. It crossed the United States at least 4 times. The best thing about this gift is that he picked out something he knew I would love because he knew I loved horses. It was more than just a book. It was a gift that said he knew me and wanted me to have something I would treasure. He gave it some thought or maybe he just came across it. Either way he must have thought I would love that book.
We give a lot of gifts out of social convention or obligation. Those are important certainly. But the gifts that are truly meaningful are the ones we give to honor the people we know and love by showing them just that. We know and love them. It is not the size of the gift or the cost of the gift. It is the fact that someone thought of you and knew you well enough to know this gift would be truly treasured. My husband is this kind of gift giver. He always gives the perfect gift. He just somehow knows exactly what I need. I must confess, however, that I have not always been the best gift giver. I have even been guilty over the years of giving gift cards. Sure, I rationalized at the time that I was giving the perfect gift. After all my niece or nephew could go buy whatever they wanted. But I don’t think an Old Navy card is quite going to give my niece that same warm feeling 40 years from now that I have from a simple book.
As a working mom, I have often found myself over the years in a state of complete panic when I realized that the three months between Labor Day and Thanksgiving had disappeared and I had not even begun to shop for Christmas presents. I know some of you have shared this terrifying experience when you realize you are once again not going to be writing that Christmas letter to catch everyone up on your family’s activities. You are not going to have time to knit matching sweaters for that perfect family Christmas card picture in a snowy, star-lit meadow. You are not going to bake 10 kinds of cookies for the neighbors and the mailman and the garbage collector. It is just not going to happen. Maybe it is time for me to give some things up that are nice but really fall short of meaningful. My goal this year is to give the gifts that say “I know and love you”.
I selected the image below because this stand of birch trees reminds me of the special times my husband and I camped across Alaska. I had been looking for a painting for our home for some time but this weekend I found this stand to photograph. I think this is a great gift to us as a reminder of a very special time in our lives together.
(1/30 sec., f/7.1, 500ISO, 170 mm)