I don’t think I was ever disappointed by a gift I received as a child. No, I didn’t always get exactly what I thought I wanted, but I always enjoyed the gifts I got: toys, clothes, books. Always books. Lots of books. Wonderful books!
I do, however, remember being often disappointed in the reactions to gifts I gave. I was always picking up stuff—shiny things, pretty things, interesting things—and giving them to family and friends. Small things, at first: shiny stones, dried leaves, a crow feather, a wheel from a toy truck, a piece of broken glass. My mother OOOHed and AHed, and thanked me before she threw them out, but they always wound up in the trash. My other relatives, and the parents of my friends, weren’t so polite. My treasures still got tossed in the trash, but the action was accompanied by loud words like “dirty” and “ugly” and “smelly,” and louder admonitions to NEVER do anything like that again.
My friends weren’t much more receptive. I’d hand a worm to Karen, and she’d squeal and run to her grandma. I’d give Phyllis a grasshopper, and she’d put her hands behind her back and cry.
When I was older, and we moved to New York State, my gifts got bigger. At first, we lived in an apartment complex on the edge of a large, undeveloped field. My friends and I would wander around there after school, playing Cowboys or Cops’n’robbers or Store or School or—my favorite—Jungle Explorer.
It was larger neighborhood, and I found friends who were more my style. We ALL brought home stuff like this: cute furry field mice, lively little chipmunks, and the occasional squirrel tail or dead bird.
None of the parents appreciated our gifts.
We couldn’t understand that at all.
After all, how could anyone resist a face like THIS?
Eventually, I gave up.
From the time I was nine, I decided to keep my treasures to myself and give people boring gifts: pictures I drew, crocheted pot holders, or small store-bought gifts.
Snake: Jennifer Schlick, program director, Jamestown Audubon Society, Inc. (permission requested)
Field mouse: Photographer unknown. Found it on a site of supposedly copyright-free images, and have requested information from the site owner. If anyone knows the original source, please let me know.