One of the (few) advantages of aging are the changes in the gifts that we value.
When we were little, every gift was special. I enjoy watching my sister’s grandchildren unwrap the gifts that she meticulously wraps. I delight in watching the sheer joy on their faces as they unwrap each gift from the dollar store. Their eyes sparkle, their faces light up with a wide smile, their voices get higher, and they rush to show everyone each treasure. It is impossible not to experience their joy.
My older grandniece is 10 and she is getting more selective. While she still loves to unwrap presents, she is also interested in the content of the gift; the wrapping is no longer enough. Fortunately, she has a unique style which her parents encourage, so you never really know what will fit into that style. Seeing her apparel combinations of rubber boots paired with various skirts, dresses, colors, and her headgear is amusing to say the least. So it is possible that a present, while not cool with her friends, may fit her just right.
As we enter adulthood, gifts become more important, they become a method of expressing and receiving love. A perfect gift means that person “gets” you, that person understands you, that person is thinking of you. A perfect gift is always treasured, even years later.
Gifts of art, clothing, jewelry and home goods fill a need. They can be both an expression of caring and a chance to get things that are not affordable. When I was young, gifts were things, like clothing, jewelry, art, books, or home goods. The younger generations often prefer experiential gifts such as contributions to a honeymoon, vacations, or tickets to special events.
As we age, we no longer need things. Our homes are full of treasures and many of us have a lifetime of experiences.
Instead, we value gifts that are expressions of love, of warmth, of comfort, of caring. We treasure those more than we did when we were younger. When we were younger a fun gathering was one of many that we could expect. Now each one is precious.
I have a weekly game of Codenames with a family with whom we have been close for 30 years. Each week our families get together to play this game, not to win, but to share laughter and news and just chuckle at our missteps. We come together from different states, but it is as if we were sharing a room. I feel the love which remains long after the games are finished.
In addition to being gifted with caring and loving friends, I am very fortunate to have a large, loving family. A ride-or-die family. When anything happens, we bond together to protect and shore up the wounded family member.
My youngest sister had a milestone birthday last week. Rather than gifts, she wanted us all to be together; dressed up, at another sister’s home, for a formal meal. The meal was filled with laughter, warmth, and good food. My birthday sister had accidentally bought very expensive bottles of wine after a wine tasting, and we laughed about it while enjoying a very delicious and expensive Cabernet Sauvignon.
As I sat around the table laughing at our misspent youth while in the warm embrace of my family, I realized that my sister had not only received a gift, but, she had given us an even greater one. We celebrated being alive, being together in that warm moment just enjoying and loving each other.
The gifts that we appreciate as we age are not morally superior to other presents; but they are gifts that are available to everyone. And when I was young, I didn’t recognize how precious they were.
And that is the reward of age—wisdom.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.