Gifting a Heart

Exotic car rental for day.  A collection of penned life memories on yellowed parchment. Handmade, black leather, sorta dykey, wallet wrist cuff.  That perfect light catcher on the dusty back shelf of the bookstore that you touched just once with your hands.  The vacuum with the retractable cord.  A super soft vintage tee shirt at the thrift store.  A bag of M&M’s and a girly night atop a multi-blanketed, many-pillowed, billowy soft bed.

The ideas are always meaningful and unique.  My intentions are pure.  In my vast and scattered mind, I even “plan ahead”.  But the follow through?  That’s the really lousy part.  So it remains that I have identified, yet again, another area of my life that I half-ass:  gift giving.

As my spirit, and age, has ripened I have grown to appreciate the art of gift giving.  Given time and a small bit of mad money, I lust to wander the city and hidden gift shops and galleries and paper stores and gardens in search of that “perfect gift” for my circle of friends and family.  There is magic in the process of hunting, gathering, wrapping, and giving.  There is mystery is placing a call to the universe for an object symbolic of so much love and gratitude for a person.  And when that call is answered?  There is peace in placing hands gently on that gift, grinning as if light emanated from your mouth.  In this space, gift giving is timeless and unhindered, simple and quiet, as brilliant as the opening blossom of a white rose.

Enter the shrieks and needs of a 3 year old and a one year old.  Usher in the critical nap time schedule and subsequent diva melt downs if they aren’t followed.  Welcome to the nasty foe of gift-giving:  children.

There is no time for that hunting and pecking, pushing through the packed and clanking hangers at the Goodwill one at a time.   Good god woman, diaper changes and leaking sippy cups and “play the didgeridoo music!!!!!!!” requests are much more important than taking an hour to give back to those whose love runs like streams in your heart.

Even internet shopping is difficult to achieve when kids are clawing their way onto your lap with tears interrupting the chocolate-encrusted patches on their cheeks.   And that instant gratification and ability to feel the energy in a gift? Zippo with internet shopping.   So like mothering, internet shopping becomes a gamble.  A gamble that the retro, lacey apron won’t smell like smoke, or that the jasmine soy candle isn’t melted upon delivery to the hellish temperate in the desert.

Oh sure, there’s always the option of hand-crafting a gift. (stifling laughter).   I’ve tried.  No bueno.  Unless you like your gifts to be autographed by 3 year olds with crayons and applesauce, and truly enjoy the “surprise” of  receiving them 6 months later,  I’d advise against requesting a hand-crafted, from-the-heart gift from me. 

I miss gift giving.  Admittedly, I enjoyed shopping on last year and packing boxes for my tribe-women and their babies.   There was meditation in this act:  of cutting old fabrics to wrap with, and tying curly ribbons around onesies, and placing aromatic candles or incense within each package.   The gift was giving back to me, whispering of dearly-held memories and of dances and initiations under the sun.


My husband is seriously good at gift giving.   For our very first Christmas together, he gifted me one of those gigantic stockings filled with 100 small presents.  He has surprised me throughout our 11 years together with a variety of incredibly romantic and touching gifts, things I never knew I’d really wanted:  a hot air balloon ride ending with champagne and cheese on a picnic blanket, a snowboarding trip to Park City, Utah, a brand new mountain bike, an acoustic guitar I could sing my heart out to, a book of wisdom by the Dalai Lama, a manicure and pedicure, brushed velvet stilettos, two gorgeous baby girls.  And always, always chocolate.

I did pull off a good one once and managed to arrange a completely surprise weekend trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain, in California.  He had no clue where we were going, even as we boarded a plane (I wouldn’t let him look at the sign), and rented a car, and drove to a hotel.  It wasn’t until we settled into the hotel room and opened the curtains to let the light in, that I told him what I had planned.   At the park, our exhilarated screams got caught in our throat as the seat of our Free Fall ride let loose and our feet headed towards the ground.   Then, during dinner, we cuddled next to each other in a booth and carried on a long-standing birthday tradition by sharing burritos and friend ice cream at El Toritos.

Magic indeed.

And B.C. indeed (before children).


There it lay, among the overdue bills and annoying coupon flyers.  I didn’t recognize the name on the return address label at first.  But it was hand-addressed to me, so it had to be a friend.  Inside, the cream colored card included a shimmery gold illustration of leaves on a plant.  Peaceful.  Serene.  Inside was this:

“…and a small welcome back gift.”  From the card and into my hands slid a Wildflower Bread Company gift card, a place we had shared together just weeks prior.

I rested my back against the leather of my minivan seat and placed a hand over my thumping heart.  Tears felt like they were welling throughout my entire body.  Overcome with gratitude that this friend had thought enough to send me a simple, beautiful “welcome back” gift.  Little ol’ me.  Just for coming back from a 10-day vacation.  This moment, an intersection of humility and grace bundled with the knowledge that her hands took the time to write, seal, stamp, and send a card.  Her hands that have held beauty and pain in one moment, her soul who has known so much grief and loss.   This moment, a gift itself.  Raising my eyes to the sun, I gave thanks for the piercing arrow of companionship.

It is the spanning of distance, the bridging of time, which touches me most about gift giving.  It is the ability to bring someone to their knees, or up off their knees finally, with the tearing of paper or lifting of a box lid.  It is the way they remembered that one time you groaned about how having a new cookie sheet would be so nice or that, as kooky as it sounded, a lock of her silky hair would be so very meaningful to you.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. You have totally inspired me today Leigh, thank you. and that list of presents from hubby? amazing!!

  2. bella says:

    i adore gift giving.
    i really do think it is a form of creative expression, a sacred art.
    And I also hear you, that with small kiddos, it very often remains in the realm of idea.
    YOur intention is always there and I hear it, hear you.
    and the time will come again, when there is more time, quiet time.
    until then, know that you are enough. always.
    ANd by the way, your mint chocolate gift to me when we met? Inspired.

  3. janistan says:

    Oh Leigh, you ARE a gift. You are the gift yourself. ((hugs))
    This is a beautiful, beautiful post. And your husband? He needs to give a class on gift-giving to males all around. I will make sure to sign my man up and deliver him personally to class. *grin*
    xoxo, Janis

  4. Joanna says:

    This is truly sweet, Leigh. It is so wonderful to have such friends. I find the giving of such gifts a pleasure, even though honestly, it is not, as you note, easy to do so in these days of chaos and busyness. Yet, something so simple as that note: lovely. Your friend has a soul like yours. I am in the middle of making a necklace for a friend of mine whe recently handed down 100 darling outfits for Moira from her older girls. How does one repay kindness like this? Sometimes, words just don’t feel enough. You ARE a gift indeed, as Janis, your friend, says…this IS true.

  5. mb says:

    Jason ROCKS. Can I rent him? After B gave me a leather corset for my first birthday together and had a tatrum (“this is a gift to me??? this is a gift to YOU, buddy!”) I think he’s been scared to get me anything.

    I love gift giving, too, but it has become a chore with three kids. Even shopping online has become cold and calculated. ANd making it to the post office to send off packages??? yeah right.

    you are a gift in my life, never did i think a bright red bow could hold such a sister friend soulmate. When we met, i hoped, suspected…but I didn’t know what a blessed gift I was getting. Thank you.

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