Love and Presents

It was just after Christmas…

I was browsing the Web as I usually do, when I came across a complaint:
“My parents don’t love me — they bought me the latest blue iPhone and not the gold one I wanted!”

Shock! Horror! How could loving parents do such a horrible thing?

Of course, anyone with a brain knows that one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Gifts are a way of showing that one cares for someone. They are given (hopefully) with no strings attached, no expectation of getting something in return.

But, as I shook my head at such crass materialism, I began to wonder… Maybe this tweeny-bopper was right.

Is buying the latest and greatest gadgetry really showing love?

I never knew my own grandparents (either side), but I did know my parents. And, yes, as a ten to 14-year-old, there was much that I wanted to have, hopefully from my parents. Things like a bicycle, or a scooter. I loved books and comics. And all kinds of things I saw in the newspapers.

But we were comparatively poor. Dad was not well-paid, and Mum did all kinds of things to get a bit more cash into the household budget — seamstress, laundress, dressmaker, hat presser, and much more. Despite these shortcomings in the cash department, my siblings and I didn’t want for much. Sure, we had hand-me-down clothing from better-off relatives (as well as each other). And we really had to scrape for me to get a school uniform. An ice cream cone or whatever was a luxury, and Mum baked out birthday cakes or special treats. Our main meats were mince (hamburger) and sausages or some of the very cheap cuts of meat — I only learned about fillet mignon and sirloin and the really tender meats after I started at University. We used bacon drippings as a substitute for butter (I still love a slice of bread soaked with bacon grease).

I could go on about how poor we were, but, really, we kids felt like we were far better off than 90% of the people we knew.

Why?

Because the one thing our parents gave us was their time. Even though Dad worked (on the job or travelling to and from work), he tried very hard to spend time with all of us. He showed us how to use tools, and how to repair the bicycle that we finally got, an ancient thing that had a single gear, in a girl’s model. That was for ALL of us — my brother, sister and me. Not a flash racing bike with umpteen gears. Dad picked it up from a garbage dump; he cleaned it up, oiled it properly, found inner tubes for the tires, straightened out the frame and more. He took the time to make it look a bit flash, with decals and a bell.

I remember being a little disappointed — the bike was just a tad on the small side for me, but it worked well for my sister. So, I tended to think that it was “bought” for her, rather than something for all three of us (although my brother was much younger, and too small for it).

It was only later that I started to realize how lucky I was to have a father like that, someone who would give generously of his time, because that was the one thing he could give us. He was there to help us learn the joys

  • of walking in the parks and woods,
  • of picking mushrooms from the forests and fields,
  • of finding frogs and toads hidden in small streams and ponds,
  • of being able to laugh and shout
  • of winning a few dollars on the pools and horse races

Hopefully, I’ve passed those joys to our kids and to my grandchildren who are contemporaneous with the tweeny-bopper and his blue iPhone. Nothing really great, but the idea that the most precious thing that we can give other people is our own time.

That’s where love really resides…

Peter (L.E.Gant)

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