I've written my own mini compendium of gift ideas this year- lovely and (I hope) helpful, all of them. But here's a post in favour of a thriftier approach that often gets, usually justifiably, a bad press- enter the re-gift.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter how many hints we drop over the course of the holiday season, it's simply inevitable that well-meaning friends or relatives or perhaps even (often even) generous acquaintances will at some point present you with a wonderfully thoughtful, beautifully wrapped dud of a thing, that, once you have of course been moved by the gesture of and thanked the gifter profusely for, you must nonetheless find a way to use/display. And if both of those intentions yield no joy despite your best efforts, well, off to the charity shop said gift must go, given that thrift stores operate on the essential and intrinsically truthful premise that another person's junk is always more desirable than one's own. Charity shops are 99 per cent my place of choice, given that re-gifting is dicey territory for the notable reasons that a) a good gift should be something you have specifically thought through for the lucky recipient, and one size does not fit all in every sense and b) the potential risk (quelle horreur) of being busted under the tree next year with its accompanying melee of hurt feelings and accusations of tight fistedness. All fraught and very tricky indeed.
But a package arrived at my doorstep this week which changed my mind on the topic of regifting- a small soft parcel wrapped in brown paper, my name (complete with the formal "Mrs' that still makes me laugh) scrawled in the unmistakable cursive of my Grandma. Inside were three carefully folded linen tea towels. And a note. In it she wrote that the tea towels were for me, and how for a long time they had sat in her cupboard, gifts from friends and neighbours. She hadn't used them in that time, she explained, though they had lain there, ready for wiping and wringing, for several years, because she thought they were lovely and therefore had been "saving them for best". Many things moved me about my Grandma's letter- the purposeful, lyrical way she writes, 40 years abroad having failed to extinguish her sing-song Welsh way of talking, nor her hardy Celtic genes displaying the remotest hint of senility despite her 92 rich years on earth. The careful folds of the dish towels whispered of a lifetime of folding- hospital gowns for the thousands she nursed as a midwife and pediatric nurse, impossibly tiny babygros for the newborns she delivered, my Grandfather's shirts over years of being a miner's wife. The fabric of linen, I thought, spoke to the fabric of her being. Sturdy, natural, creasing cool hands with faint, friendly lines of greeting. Dependable. Useful. A wiper away of troublesome things.
She had saved them for best. But now she was giving them to me. Because, to her, that's what I was.