Sow There! Failing grade on gift giving, Sept. 4, 2020

This photo is of an actual gift received during my birthday in April, at the height of the coronavirus shelter-in-place. Some gifts are much-needed. Luckily I was home, so the contents of the package did not melt. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)
September 4, 2020 

Our culture is one of gift-giving. It’s a good thing because buying things happens to be an important aspect of our economy. I’m mostly kidding, but I think if we didn’t have holidays with gifts as a focus, some of the men in our lives would never have new socks and new underwear.

I’m not particularly skilled at gift-giving. This shortcoming can be directly linked to the fact that I hate shopping. Stores have too many choices and these choices are muddied by the subtle ways marketers are trying to divert my attention. The items I don’t want to buy are placed directly in my path, making it more difficult to find the gift I had in mind. When I shop, I resent the hard-working people who are paid to ask me what I want to buy, so that they can find me something they want me to buy so that I feel guilty if I leave without buying.

As for shopping online, see the part about “too many choices” above.

Over the years, I’ve learned that my best strategy is to buy something for a friend or family member when I stumble upon a gift by accident. This means I might buy local pickles in mid-summer, and give them as gifts at Christmas. I have a plastic tub in my closet where I stash these treasures.

Note: if you receive a gift from me and the box is crushed or the label is scratched, it is not necessarily a re-gift. Your gift was probably at the back of my closet for months and months.

I’m also terrible at receiving gifts. I feel the intense pressure under the watchful eye of the gift-giver. They are hopeful, wondering if they have guessed right about my unexpressed yearnings.

That’s a lot of pressure.

How do I know if I love, love this magenta sweater? Will it go well with the magenta purse this family member gave me last year? I need to go home and try it on for size.

At least I know my failings. If I’m not expressive enough at the moment, I try to send a follow-up text when I’m enjoying something that I received.

Thank you Lynda for the ice cream bowl and spoon dishes. It always makes me smile to eat my oatmeal from a dish that looks like it is a waffle cone. It reminds me that tonight I can eat ice cream.

Lynda is top-rate in the gift-giving department. She knows she can never miss if she includes chocolate.

Gifts from the garden

This brings us to the gift du jour – garden excess.

As mentioned, numerous times, I’m drying things these days. With tomatoes ripening daily, I previously offloaded my dried tomato stash from last year. I think these gifts were genuinely appreciated. However, now that I think about it, other people may simply be better at saying “thank you” and sounding like they mean it.

Mom must genuinely like dried tomatoes because when I texted that I could bring more when I visit this week, she replied “yes please.”

These days I’m drying raisins. Maybe I have not asked the right folks. Most of my friends and family simply said “no thank you.” I try to cajole, explaining how good they will be in baked goods. Fresh raisins have an exceedingly chewy texture and light color never found in that box of raisins packed in a lunch and returned home 20 times. Home-dried raisins also have a glaze of chewy caramelized sugar you won’t find in the red box with that girl wearing the red bonnet. Nope. Apparently, none of my friends bake oatmeal and raisin cookies these days.

(My raisins, by the way, are amazing in the oatmeal I eat every morning to maintain my energy through a busy morning of teaching).

The fresh grapes were a bigger hit. LaDonna and Kara asked me for a second bunch. Antonio at my new school said yes twice (although I highly suspect he was just trying to be nice).

As for other foods that are in oversupply in late summer, I’m heartened to see that at least others are having little success being gracious. Our lunchroom at my school is overflowing with peaches. Yet, it’s tough to give things away when the coronavirus means teachers only visit the lunchroom for a quick dash to the copy machine.

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