Rose Keating’s weekly column as published in the Waterford News & Star’s Well! magazine
WHAT’S the best gift you have ever gotten?
Last week, I received what I think might be the best present any human in the entire world has ever received. What on earth could it have been, I hear you wonder. Glittering jewellery? Designer clothes? A big, fancy, shiny new car?
(If anyone ever intends on buying me a fancy new car, my preference would be towards something red and flashy and obnoxious. Not that I can actually drive. But that’s a problem for a different day.)
But, no, I did not receive any such thing. And, I am incredibly glad I didn’t, because the present I got was so much better.
Last week, my mum messaged me on Facebook to ask me what I want for my birthday. I didn’t really know what to say, because I didn’t particularly want anything at all. I’m not a present sort of person – I’m just not very much into gifts.
So, I told her I wanted Chris Evans. Jokingly. (Chris, if you’re reading this, it’s not a joke. I am single and available for coffee at any time. Feel free to bring the Captain America shield.)
While I forgot about this off hand remark, my mother, apparently, did not. A week or so later, after a long and gruelling day of lectures, I came home to find a package waiting for me in my apartment.
My mother had sent me a life size cut out of Chris Evans in the post.
‘There are so very many ways to say ‘I love you’ to someone, and I’m grateful to live in a world where actions can speak just as loud as words.’
It’s a monstrosity. It’s a foot taller than me, and stares out into the world with an unblinking gaze. It is by far the most disturbing thing I have ever received in the post. I will literally never be able to take another human back to my room again without running the risk of that person thinking I am a serial killer. My room is tiny and there is absolutely no where I can hide this unsettling creature. It is, to put it lightly, an abomination.
It is also easily the most treasured present I have ever received. I love it with all my heart. It is the best gift I have ever gotten, simply because my mum sent it because she knew it would make me laugh.
When I said I hated presents, I think that was technically a lie. Or, not an entire truth. I apologise for misleading you, dear reader. Of course I like presents. Everyone likes presents. I am suspicious of anyone who says otherwise and genuinely means it.
But the thing is, it’s not the present itself that’s the fun part. I don’t care about that part at all – the realised actuality of a present, the physical object that I hold in my hand after unwrapping the brightly coloured paper is utterly meaningless to me. It’s just a thing. Sometimes a thing I will enjoy, sometimes a thing that is useless to me. But, either way, it’s just a thing. Just an object.
The thing that I love so much about presents is not the present itself. The present itself doesn’t matter – I really don’t care what I get. Slippers, candles, a box of chocolate – who cares about any of that? I’m a 22 year old woman; I can, in theory, buy slippers for myself, and do not have to wait to be gifted with them once a year. None of that is all that special to me.
What I really like about presents, no matter what the present is, is that it means that someone was thinking about me. Someone took the time out of their day to think about something that might make me happy. That might make me smile. That might make me laugh. It means that someone cared enough to think about what I might want, what might bring me enjoyment.
I think I might like presents just because it reminds me that someone cares about me.
It can be hard to say the words, ‘I care about you.’ It can be hard to say the words, ‘I love you.’ It can be hard to say the words, ‘I want to find a way to make you smile.’
I don’t know why it’s so hard, but it is. I don’t like saying those words to anyone very often. And, as we are all aware, I’m not particularly uncommon. I am very, very ordinary. I think I find it hard in the same way most people do.
Yet, for some reason, actions seem so much easier than words.
I do not tell my friend that I think my life would be much worse if she was not in it, but I do pick her up chocolate from the shop. I do not tell my little brother that I am so proud of the adult he has become, but I do binge watch Star Wars movies with him. I do not tell my mother that I hope to one day be half the woman she is, but I send her funny pictures on messenger in the evening.
I don’t often say ‘I love you,’ but I try to say it in other ways.
I think presents are a bit like that, and that’s why they’re so wonderful. Not because we need them. But because it’s just another way of saying: I love you. I am thinking about you. I care about you. I hope this makes you smile.
There are so very many ways to say ‘I love you’ to someone, and I’m grateful to live in a world where actions can speak just as loud as words.