A few weeks ago, my sister found a blue dress, baby size. It wasn't an ordinary blue dress--you see, the previous year, she'd spent looking at blue dresses for herself and her daughter's wedding party. The blue dress had become an important symbol of family unity.
She found the baby size blue dress for Mandi's baby girl, who is yet to be born--and somehow this meant that Mandi's baby girl was always part of the family. After finding the dress, she even wondered if the newest member of the family should be photoshopped into the wedding photos. Especially now that she had a matching dress.
Ah, but this goes so much deeper than just a dress and a newborn.
Previous to the birth of Mandi's first child, my sister claimed she had seen him. She described him as a two year old boy with blond curly hair. This vision made us chuckle and doubt because Mandi has dark hair and her husband could be mistaken, especially when he sports a beard, for a man from the Middle East. There was no way Mandi's future child, girl or boy, would be blond.
He was born with brown hair that thinly covered his head. As he grew, his hair got a little lighter, a little fuller, and by the time he was a two year old, he had a shocking mop of curly blond hair. He had become the little boy my sister had seen. And the boy we had doubted she'd seen.
So it wasn't a surprise that she now felt a connection to the little girl who won't be born until June, and that finding the dress entailed much more than a simple dress. When she sent the dress to Mandi, Mandi responded with the kind of joy that tickled my sister's heart. They both got the significance of the moment and when my sister called to tell me, we both understood that the present was received in the spirit it was given.
"Yes! That's it exactly," my sister exclaimed.
This simple encounter has kept me thinking about many things: the spirit of family, the connection of family, but most of all, the spirit of gift giving.
When a person gives a gift, the recipient will never actualize the entire process: the thoughts, the contemplation, the time, the meaning behind the gift. Perhaps the sacrifice. For the most part, the giving is for the giver. Regardless of the giver's pure motives, the greatest joy will always come to the giver. In the spirit of generosity, the giver understands this and is not hurt, or disappointed when the receiver doesn't appreciate fully all the gift entails. She understands the real token of the gift will come over time. Precious gifts take time to absorb and understand. The quilts my grandmother and mother made for me, are more meaningful with the passage of time.
There is however a slight burden on the receiver. Regardless of the gift, the joy, the disappointment, the receiver must always be grateful. Always.
When the gift recipient can imagine, when he tries to see that a gift is so much more than something that fits in a box, when he recognizes a story, sees the heartfelt action, then both giver and receiver exult together in an exalted moment.
Postscript: When I finished the last line, the thought, I can't wait for Christmas, reindeer hopped through my mind; it was immediately followed by, If giving is such a wonderful gift to oneself, why wait for Christmas when I can give every single day of my life?