This article is part of my Tastes Like Somebody Loves You! series.
My son was 12 days old the first time he received a package with his name computer-printed on the shipping label. “What did you order?” I asked him jokingly. “Did you go online without permission?” Of course he hadn’t–the package contained a gift. From the large corporation named in the return address? No, from an old friend now living halfway across the country, who had ordered online and had it shipped directly. The packing slip held our friend’s congratulatory message, in anonymous type. I unwrapped the fuzzy yellow suit and wondered if mine were the first human hands to touch it.
This happened four times before my son was two months old. (No, I don’t mean every gift was a yellow suit! I mean that we received four gifts sent this way.)
Of course I’m thankful for every gift we receive. I know that it’s the thought that counts and that some thought did go into choosing that particular suit, imagining our baby cuddled in its fuzzy softness sitting cute as a teddy bear in our laps. But it feels so strange to me that the gift is “from” our friend who never touched that yellow fuzz, didn’t search for a box the right size to hold it, didn’t address the box in his handwriting. It was never in his house, never in his hands, never real to him.
I sent a gift this same way the week before my son was born. It’s convenient.
Does anybody feel honored to see how convenient it was for you to give them a gift?
“When you care enough to send the very best,” you send a manufactured greeting card, one corporation tells us. Others say it’s flowers grown in some undisclosed location, or a pie baked two weeks ago and sealed in plastic, or a teddy bear “customized” by choosing from a Website menu, or a gift card so that you need never know exactly what “you” gave to your loved one. The gift recipient is going to see what corporation that gift came from, so make sure you choose the well-known brand, to show how much you care.
The evil thing about this is the implication that if you make it yourself, pack the box yourself, it’s not as good. Better leave that to the professionals!
After all, we’re just too busy to choose gifts in person and wrap them ourselves. Surely we have more important, less bothersome things to do. The corporations understand. They make it easier and easier for us to give gifts at a distance, to accept a mass-produced item bureaucratically connected to a person’s credit card as an expression of that person’s love.
And then we wonder why people never send thank-you notes anymore. When we visit people’s homes, we don’t recognize the gifts we gave them–or we’re shocked at how different they look in person–because we’ve never seen them before. We receive a dreary tome on investing, wrapped in sexy-looking Valentine paper, for Christmas, and we squint at the packing slip and call the automated phone system and straighten out the error and eventually receive our Santa-wrapped science fiction, without mentioning any of this to the giver because it certainly isn’t his fault; it’s nobody’s fault; there are no people involved.
But in the end, there are people, people celebrating special occasions by discovering boxes on the porch and hauling them in and looking for the scissors so we can see what’s inside and who ordered it. We are inundated with so many nice things from so many nice people who Care Enough to Send the Very Best. Why do we still feel so lonely?