While growing up, I used to rummage my grandma’s wardrobe for antiquities because my house was full of them (the spring bed in one of the rooms in my house is reportedly older than our elder sister.) My mom showed me pictures of my first birthday party and I was adorned with steel bangles coated with gold amongst other beautiful clothes I had on. My tiny chubby wrists shimmered in the picture. Those bangles were part of my first gifts as a little one still new to the ways of the world. Each year I grew and received more gifts, none of which I have a recollection of. So, at the ripe age of being a disturbance, 9 or 10 years I guess, while rummaging, I saw a white plastic jar with a sticker of a 1999 birthday party, and I was not surprised. My grandmother, may her soul rest in abundant peace, was a hoarder. She hoarded items as she did memories. I asked her what was in the jar and she said the bangles I wore during my first birthday photoshoot.
“Mama, lati igba yen. E sí fi gbogbo è pamo”
Of course, she did and it was a testament to her love.
Somewhere in that moment, I realized the benefit of gifts that can be hoarded. Gifts that can linger like memories even though time passes. Gifts that are always present.
Fast forward to when I became a teenager. I celebrated my 13th birthday with a cake, minerals (because calling it soft drinks will take something away from my memory of that day), and biscuits on a table in our parlor. I invited my neighborhood friends and my uncle came with his camera that flashed a blinding light when capturing. He took several pictures that came out blurry. My mom also made Jollof rice (concoction rice actually but let’s call it Jollof). The best part of the day was in the morning when my elder sister gifted me a small hamper of bath items of body wash, a soft pink sponge, and body lotion. I was excited about the pack because I loved the items, the sponge in particular. After we ate the Jollof rice a.k.a concoction rice, shared the cake, drank the minerals, and probably broke a bottle of minerals or two, I took the gift my sister gave me and kept it in my grandma’s wardrobe (it was my safe at that time). I later took it to school and gladly used the bath gifts for a long while before something I can’t recall happened to it.
7 years later, I prepared to clock 20. The Big 2-0. It was with cakes too and wine and balloons and friends and family. The infamous jollof rice was present too (this time as a proper jollof rice) and we took pictures and danced (I sang). A suitor at that time graciously surprised me with a cake and we digested it fast. Then one of my friends, my oldest friend, gifted me a cap, a shirt, and biker shorts. The cap is currently hung in my room, the shorts are still in my wardrobe and I wore them a few days back. It’s comfortable clothing and every time I wear it, I think of my friend, blessing, and appreciate her again.
Gifts are mostly exchanged by people that are familiar with one another to an extent. Maybe the extent of being a friend or family. Passing acquaintances are rarely gifted because there’s no attachment. There’s no reason to put the burden of deciding what to give to someone you aren’t attached to in any way on yourself. This may not be true for everybody but I’ll argue it is true for most.
When we decide to give gifts, I’m urging us to be intentional about them. I am assuming whoever you are taking the joy (and subtle inconvenience) of getting a gift for has a place in your heart and you know them to an extent. So from that place of familiarity, it pays to ask certain questions; does this gift suit this person? Does my boyfriend need more perfume? Does my girlfriend need more shirts? Is there something she truly wants that I can afford to get her? Do I want to give the kind of gift that will eventually blur into…nothingness or do I want to present the type he can hoard? Can I afford to give both? If I can’t, which do I go for? Which will she appreciate better?
For my 22nd birthday, my housemate gifted me a manual blender. She said she thought about it for a long time and decided to get me the blender because she knows I have been lacking ever since mine spoiled. She said she sensed that there are times when I would want to cook and none of them were around for me to use theirs, thereby making things a bit inconvenient for me. So, she got me a blender to make things a bit more convenient for me.
I treasure the blender, not because of its importance to my daily measure of convenience but because of what it stands for. A friend’s intentional effort to make life easier for me. While gifting it to me, she mentioned that it’s not something I can eat but it’s useful. If she had given me a cake, it would have joined the bandwagon of things at the back of my mind. The blender though, do I need to say more?
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not hating on cakes. I just think there should be more to it. Cakes are rarely personal these days. The receiver will ooh and ahh and take pictures and share it and reminisce about it twice or three times later and that’s the end. Cakes have blurred into the category of gifts that are received with little emotion attached to the act. But I think they can be made into lovely gifts when it’s made with intention. Like gifting your bookworm partner a cake in the shape and design of her favorite book. That’s some intention right there. A cake in the shape and design of his favorite football club, intentionality again! I also think cakes should be accompanied by a gift that can be kept and treasured by the receiver because facing it, cakes end up shared.
As for money, there’s always an intention behind “send your account number.”
Gifts are good and are appreciated unless the whom unto which it was given can’t or didn’t. Nevertheless, they become beautiful when their essence is based on your intentional decision to make the other person feel better, and happy. Hence, I’m urging you to be intentional about the gifts you give to the folks you love and like.