Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gifts We Give

I was industriously wrapping presents for my Pledges and Mijnheer van Voorhees when I came to the wallet Pledge One had asked for on his Christmas list. It was poignant for two reasons: A) He's old enough for wallets! And not ones that have cartoon characters and Velcro on them! B ) A wallet is the first gift I gave his father in our courtship. 
He had an old leather wallet he had bought in Argentina and it was falling apart. We had been dating for six months or so, the opening salvos in our discussion about marriage had been made, so a gift exchange was definitely in the cards (for me. I think I took him by surprise so he ran out and got an Erykah Badu CD). Anyway, a wallet was not binding to him in any way--he would not feel embarrassed about it if we ever broke up but it was nice enough that I thought it was, in the words of O. Henry, "...just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by" him.

One of my favorite books in The Canon is "Winter Wedding" which has one of the best exchanges of gifts. The heroine doesn't wish to presume. The hero has been holding onto a locket he bought in a panic of guilt. But the guilt has gone and it means more now:

...paused at the last unopened gift to watch the Professor. She hadn't known what to give him; he had everything, so in the end she had settled for a silver mouse with a long tail, small enough to go into a pocket or for that matter, tuck away in a drawer and forget. She studied his face anxiously as he opened it and was pleased to see that he slipped it at once into his waistcoat pocket. Only then did she untie her last preset.
It was a small velvet box and inside was her locket and a little card: "With best wishes from Renier Jurres-Romeijn." She fastened it around her neck with fingers that shook and presently when he came to thank her for the mouse, she asked urgently, "Did you buy it--my locket? Was it you who got there before Louisa? 

What were your first gifts of courtship?