Presents of Mind

Hello
again from the Big Blue!

As I
write this, I am not sweating. At this time of year, every moment spent not
sweating is counted as a blessing. So I suppose I should have been happier that
our time with the Ripsters was full of non-sweaty moments but I find it hard to
get excited about seven days of rain and wind and clouds when our itinerary for
these two special visitors included so much outdoor, non-stormy-weather-based
activities. Sigh. 

Regardless,
it was a treat and a half to catch up with our favorite mountain people and
share a tiny, if somewhat soggy, corner of paradise with them.

Mr
Ripster was able to get his beginner scuba diving certification, however, which
we are all so proud of him for. Hooray, Tim!

Our
friends came loaded with gifts and treats. Our favorite was the hot air popcorn
popper. Prez and I are popcorn addicts but we don’t have a microwave and we
hate popcorn cooked in oil, so we’ve mostly done without. A year without
popcorn?? I know, how barbaric! We gave “Poppy” a test run as soon as possible
and were thrilled at both the speed with which he popped and the ratio of
popped to non-popped kernels. He now sits proudly in our kitchen and will be
much used and loved. Thanks Ripsters!

But
Poppy was not the only gift. We got booze and licorice and chocolate and
tortillas and a trashy magazine and a handmade Nepalese shoulder bag, etc, etc.
All this spoiling started me thinking over just how many gifts we’ve gotten
during our nearly fourteen months here. Visiting friends have brought us
suitcases full of stuff. (Thanks Elder Challenge for the Teflon frying pan!).
Friends and family have shipped us boxes of goodies – not to mention goodies
given to me while I was back home. And guests have brought us things when they
arrived or mailed us things after they left. Returning guests, Joe &
Willow, (aka “The Fiancés”), brought me a bottle of Heinz ketchup, which is
down to the last few precious molecules. Sniff. 
 Heck, even the cats have been
sent presents! (Jo, you’re such a sweetheart!!)  

All of
this gifting leaves me wondering what the heck we did to deserve it?

This is
a good time of year to think about gifts. When Prez and I hooked up, we
rebelled against Xmas. We had lots of reasons, all of which are still valid, I
think, but perhaps the most important was our abhorrence of the concept of
giving presents because it is expected. My belief is that a gift is something
you give to show you care about someone and therefore can be given at any time.
Designating one day out of the year where everyone must give gifts, whether
they want to or not, seems to violate the whole spirit of gift giving to me.  

Come on,
confess, you know you’ve bought at least one Xmas gift in your life that you
really wished you didn’t have to but did anyway because you felt it would be
rude not to. Right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Now I’m
going to tell you a story that will seem completely off topic. 

When I
was a young university student, I worked as a waitress at fairly upscale
restaurant. Waitresses and waiters, (yes, I know they like to be called servers
now but I hate that word), do not make a large hourly wage. I was making just
over five dollars an hour back in the late eighties. Pretty pathetic
considering the amount of work I did. Waitressing, by the way, sucks. It’s all
about tips. And did I work my ass off for that extra money or what?!

The
funny thing was, I never seemed to make the kind of tips I felt I deserved.
Frustrating for a girl who sometimes had to raid the coin jar to make rent.
Well, one of my co-workers was an “older” fellow (“old” being somewhere in the
early thirties), not a student but a professional waiter. He never seemed to
stress and he always raked in the dough. 

One day,
in the staff room, (why are staff rooms always so disgusting?), I whined to him
about my poor tips. He told me, “That’s because people know you expect it.” He
went on to explain that because my focus was on the money, no matter how hard I
worked customers would always sense that and begrudge me for it. He told me to
forget about tips completely, to pretend that no one would ever leave me a
cent. “Just do a good job and concentrate on making everyone happy.”

For once
in my young and ignorant life, I actually took someone’s advice. Guess what? It
worked. My tips increased exponentially the less I focused on them. And it
wasn’t so much about not thinking of the tips as it was about thinking
about my customers. What a difference. 

What
does this have to do with gift giving? Everything.

There
was a time in my life when I craved presents. To me, Xmas was about presents
for the Princess and little else. Same with birthdays and every other holiday
involving a gift. I was jealous when other people got presents especially if
they were better than mine. It used to annoy me that some people seemed to be
forever getting something given to them, while I always received less than I
was due.  

Worst of
all, I never gave a gift without the idea in the back of my mind that this
would mean the recipient “owed” me a present down the road.

Hello,
my name is Princess and I am petty. 

What
happened? Well, mostly, I grew up. I spent enough years on my own to understand
that my parents were not joking when they told me money did not grow on trees.
(Who knew?) I started to appreciate anything I was given, and I started
wanting to give back to the people who gave to me. In other words, I stopped
expecting presents. Funny how when you stop expecting things, that’s when they
always seem to come your way.

When
Prez and I were both in the film biz, we made good coin and it was fun to give
people presents. I may regret my poor money management skills now but I don’t
regret one gift I gave. Generosity feels really, really, really good. 

And now
we find ourselves at the far end of the world and the recipients of gifts large
and small, from far and wide. I’ve never received more gifts I felt so unworthy
of nor so grateful for. A bottle of ketchup or a box of tea or a package of
hair elastics, these are every bit as exciting, now, as any brightly-wrapped
box that ever waited for me beneath a Xmas tree.

But
better than all that is the knowledge that I have somehow become a decent
enough person that people even want to give me things. What means most
to me is not the gift at all but the spirit behind it. And there are no amount
of thanks sufficient for this…but I’ll say thank you – thank you very, very
much – anyway.

Ripsters,
every time a kernel pops, we will think of you! We love you!!!! 

QUESTION:
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

Until next
week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life,

The
Princess

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