I spent the first seven years of my life in Los Angeles, in a little gray house on a tree-lined street called Cantaloupe Avenue. My memories of living there are hazy, dreamlike.
I remember the rusted jungle gym in the backyard. The smell of chlorine. Lemon trees, and the tiny gray dove that made its home in the rafters near the swimming pool. There were rose bushes that lined our driveway (I’d rip the petals off and run them over with my bike, thinking that, surely, this was how perfume was made), and a mishmash of flora in the garden. Potted plants lined the front porch. One, my favorite, was a single pink flower in a tiny terracotta dish.
Oddly enough, I remember this flower more vividly than most other physical details about that house, though its tenure on the porch couldn’t have lasted more than a couple of weeks. After having admired its impeccable posture, the elegant draping of its petals, and that irresistible rosy flush for what seemed like an eternity, I couldn’t help myself.
I picked it.
I never imagined that it might have been planted in a pot for a reason, or that it may have had weeks or maybe months of life ahead of it yet, or that someone — presumably my mother — had chosen it at a nursery because she loved it, and been caring for it diligently ever since.
With dirt still clinging to its stem, I presented her with my find. “It’s a gift,” I said proudly. “For you.”
“I know where this came from,” she said slowly, turning it over in her hands.
Then, she said, “Thank you.”
I had mixed feelings this month, putting together a gift guide for my blog. After the year I’d had — which was full of challenge and adventure and emotional intensity — it seemed to me that the most meaningful gift to give anyone who mattered would involve not money, but time.
A handmade card as opposed to one that’s pre-written. A song. A meal. Plans to spend time together.
This year, in that way, I suppose I’ve become a kid again.
The purest aspect of a child’s gift-giving — when money isn’t a factor — is simple. I love this, I know it’s special, and I want you to have it because I feel the same is true about you.
And, perhaps ironically, the natural response — thank you — is a gift in kind.