Friday, November 12, 2010

Gifting

My darling friend, Rebecca (hands down my favorite lesbian), had her birthday yesterday. Because I had class last night (boo), we decided to meet up for lunch so I would wish her a happy birthday on her birthday. Before heading to Harrison St for noms, I presented her with her gift. Now, I like to pride myself on my gift giving abilities. When I have the time and the money and know a person well, I can usually hunt down something that will be meaningful for the recipient. When I first saw the painting that I got her, I automatically knew it was the one, so I was practically jumping up and down with anticipation to give it to her. Without prompting, she assumed the gift receiving pose: hands out and eyes closed.

I have bittersweet memories associated with that pose. Growing up, my mother would always make my brother and me do that before receiving gifts. "Close your eyes and open up your hands!" It became a joke and we would start saying it before she could, mimicking her intonations and making it singsong-y. When we were older, my brother and I turned the tables and would make my mom do the same pose before we would give her her gifts. That same phrase echoed through my head as soon as Rebecca did it, but I bit back the words.

For all I know, my mother still insists on closed eyes and open hands. I say "for all I know" because somewhere along the line over the past two years, my mother decided to stop giving me gifts. I didn't receive so much as a phone call from her on my birthday this year or last. There's something about having your own mother, the very one who birthed you, not give a shit about your birthday, not acknowledge your passage of years, that really never stops smarting. I am not a materialistic person and so the physical stuff isn't the issue here. It's the thought, the caring, the natural inclination to express your love for someone on a meaningful day that makes my mother's lack so incredibly hurtful.

Last Christmas, after witnessing all the gifts given to my brother and after giving all of the homemade gifts that I spent hours on creating, I was given a card and a box of chocolates from my mother. While I was tearing the seal on the card, my mother interjected, "The reason there's not anything in your card is because I didn't know if you wanted cash or check." Funny, she's never bothered to worry about such a trivial thing before. I blinked a few times and forced out a meager, "Oh... it doesn't matter." What I really wanted to say was, "No, Mom. You don't have to lie to me to make both of us feel better about the fact that the real reason there's nothing in this card is because you weren't going to give me anything. You feel guilty for not giving me anything because of all the things I just gave you, all of the things that I spent so much time on, that I made sacrifices for. You wrongfully thought that I am some monster, that I don't give a shit about you, and that I wasn't going to give you anything this year. Instead of apologizing, you're lying." I bit my tongue and let the mishap go.

Instead of blowing off Mother's Day and her birthday this year like I so badly wanted to, I sent gifts (that I was never thanked for) and had a three way phone call with her and my brother. Instead of calling her out for missing my birthday two years in a row, I maintained the silence. Instead of letting the bitterness overwhelm me, I bestow gifts onto those who matter to me. I know the importance of letting someone know that I am so happy and grateful that they were born because I am not always that lucky. Instead of continuing the cycle of virulence that my mother has started, I am making a clean break.

No ma'am, I will not participate in your pity party. I am donning my party dress and celebrating instead.

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