In the last of my unoriginal blog posts for the month - in which I steal someone else's idea and use that to make myself appear contemplative and analytical - I'm participating in these folks' blog blast, sponsored by these folks regarding this subject:
What makes a gift memorable for you.

Whether it was good or bad, whether you were a child or an adult, whether you were the giver or the receiver - which gifts have stood out in your mind and why?

I like this subject... and not just because I've been the lucky recipient of such mammoth benefactions as a potato gun, a Powerpuff Girls watch, and a rubber chicken among others, but also because I've given as well as received. Some gifts are memorable simply because they are bad. Rotato, anyone?

One of my favorite gifts as a kid was a Bouncy Rocking Horse. This one looks a whole lot safer than the ones that were available when I was young though. I remember it occasionally tipping over when you got a little too enthusiastic with the galloping. There's nothing quite like a safety hazard to make any kid appreciate his mortality.

The most used and reused gift I've ever received was an iPod knoc
koff. It was before Mac cornered the market and there were still digital audio players on the market that did not begin with a little "i". I immediately put almost all of the then 600 selections from the CD Collection That Is A Monument To My Mental Illness on it. To this day I use that gift Every. Single. Day. In fact, I'd even welcome another one because mine is full and I've acquired some new CDs since then. With the new high capacity storage drives, I could put on every CD I own or might ever acquire. It was a great gift, not just because I've managed to use it every day since then, but because my husband really thought about what I'd need and use in my professional as well as personal life.

Another memorable gift was a reproduction of the Hope Diamond in a necklace, not because of the necklace itself (although my husband has great taste in jewelry and always makes good choices there), but because of how it came about. We were at a Smithsonian museum shop with a friend and we saw these cool miniature replicas of the Hope Diamond. I said to my friend, "You know, I've always thought the Hope Diamond was kind of tasteless and gaudy, but when it's miniaturized, it's kind of pretty. I would actually wear this." We browsed a little more and while she and I were looking at African art and instruments, I happened to notice through my peripheral vision that The KingofHearts had wandered off and was standing near the checkout counter. Usually, I'm the one who does that.

My girlfriend said, "Hey where did KoH go?"

Me: "He's over there buying the Hope Diamond necklace. But he's trying to keep it a secret, so don't tell him I know, OK?"

The rest of the day as we walked around the City, he had a giant box-shaped item in his pocket.

A few weeks later on my birthday, he presented me with the necklace. I never let on that I knew it was coming all along... at least, that is, until now. (It's a good thing I didn't have a blog back then. Sorry dear!) It was a great gift, though, because he had caught on to something I'd said and acted on it - without my having to drop not-so-subtle hints or just write a list outright.

I think that's my big pet peeve about gifts and gift giving these days. It's so often a chore for so many. The expectation is that you tell someone what you want and they buy it for you. I know many people who make lists of what they expect for Christmas and then even go so far as to assign friends and family members specific items from the list. There's no thought, no consideration, it just becomes an expensive grocery trip. It's a chore, not a mitzvah.

We're trying to instill this idea in The Dormouse now... that gifts are wonderful because they are thoughtful and unexpected. More than once this year, one of the two of us has uttered the phrase, "You know, honey, Santa doesn't always bring you every single thing you want. Sometimes he brings you things he knows you need or things that you might not even know you would like." I don't want Christmas to turn into some month long shopping assignment for her and for our family. I want there to be surprise and wonder.

I refuse to tell the KoH what I want for Christmas each year, instead invoking Wily Wonka, "the best kind of prize is a SURprise." If I know exactly what I'm getting before I open the box, I could have just gone out and purchased it myself. It drives him nuts because when he asks me what I want, I always say something like, "A hammer. No... just a hammer." So he never feels like he knows what to get me. But he always gets me great gifts. Even the spud gun was something I loved because it was fun and unexpected and he thought about it.

And to me, that's what gifts should be.