Recently, I’ve been informed by social media that children are now registering for birthday gifts much like future married couples and later divorcees have done for decades. Some people may think this is a reasonable and efficient idea, but other than vomiting, I don’t have much to say about this issue. Personally, I don’t have a problem with gift giving and receiving, but I do have a bit of a problem with certain celebrations of birthdays at young ages. When countless friends and relatives are invited, the birthday Prince or Princess doesn’t always seem too appreciative of the gifts showered upon his or her royal crowns, thus creating a sense of entitled greed.
Perhaps, I’m just too old fashioned. When I was child, I remember annually receiving gifts from my parents at very modest parties. Once in a while, a neighbor might show up for a piece of cake, but I knew my parents frowned on inviting many friends over, because they didn’t want them to feel obligated to bring anything for me. Or, perhaps I just didn’t have many friends.
I once received a gift from a friend at school on my birthday, and the outcome was bitter sweet. I still feel awful about my lack of appreciation for the gesture of kindness to this very day. It was my saddest and most memorable of gifts.
In the eighth grade, I befriended a girl, and we eventually, according to others, became the school’s most conceited couple. She found out that my birthday was coming soon and wished to purchase me a gift. I begged her not to buy me anything. Since I didn’t receive an allowance, I knew when her birthday came knocking on my wallet, other than a student body identification card, the only items filling it might be a couple of baseball cards. So, unless she liked baseball cards, she would have to settle for a dandelion I could pick in our backyard.
Continuing to pester me, shrewdly, I announced to her what I wanted for my birthday: A new car. Most thirteen year olds can’t afford this, so I thought it ended the discussion. Indeed, it did. And, of course, on my birthday, she still presented to me a gift at the lunch table we had been sitting at together for the previous five months. In front of all our other friends, I opened it, and it was a car. It was a remote controlled car. Actually, I had never had one, and all my guy friends were impressed and a little envious. So, we all took it out to the pavement outside the lunchroom and I let them all play around with it. I then told her how much I liked it and gave her a hug. For me, this was a display of sincere gratitude. Usually, she couldn’t even get me to hold her hand.
A few months later, she presented me with another surprise at lunch. She broke up with me. When you’re that young, breakups shouldn’t mean that much to you, but this one did. For years, all I really cared about was sports. Now, I found myself really liking this girl, so you could say I was a bit heartbroken. What was wrong with me? Additionally, since she couldn’t provide a proper reason for the breakup, you could say I was a bit PISSED. Nevertheless, I took it in stride, said goodbye, and did what any mature thirteen year old would do in this situation. After baseball practice, I went home, walked into my room and looked at the car and my baseball bat. Grabbing them both, I strolled out the backdoor, and I remember mother asking me, “Where are you going with that bat and car?” Calmly, I told her I was heading out to the field beyond our backyard. She just looked at me strangely. When I made it to the field, I beat the holy hell out of that car into a thousand little plastic and rubber pieces. Moments after I did it, I think I felt shame, but at the same time, closure. Years after I did it, I’d matured slightly and sometimes thought about her and the car and what a horribly rotten thing I’d done. The car was long gone, and it could never be replaced, along with my lack of appreciation for it.
Although she and I went to the same high school, we never spoke once to one another. However, twenty five years later after that incident, somehow, the girl and I met again. Being very contrite about what I’d done all those years ago, with a chuckle, she provided proper forgiveness. Six months later, we were married. We share that story with many of the same friends we had long ago, because they remember the car but never properly knew the reason for its demise. It always makes them laugh or get angry wondering why I just didn’t give it to one of them.
Now, I tell her each day how much I appreciate her, and she says thank you and reciprocates the notion. Now that’s a gift I can appreciate and won’t beat the hell out of with a bat.