In an age where convenience can strip away creativity, I’d like to make a plea for thoughtful presents. You see, I’m faced with buying a 12-year-old boy a gift, and I’ve been guilty recently of taking the easy way out. The gift card. A present is reduced to a strict exchange of dollars. It feels hollow, in a way, but it does get the job done. Safeway has a kiosk right by the check-out stand that is 6 feet of colorful gift cards from every retail business around. Certainly every giftee – man, woman, child from infantcy to seniorhood – could use something from one of those stores.
I’m here to tell you about a certain salad bowl that I received as a gift. A woodworker named Lloyd General lovingly turned (literally, he hand turned it on a lathe) a massive chunk of California walnut into a work of functional art. I just ate a salad out of that gorgeous striated brown bowl. I have eaten or served items out of that bowl for close to 20 years. And when I do, a tiny piece of my heart goes out to the woman who thought enough of the importance of gift buying to get it for me: my mother-in-law Lou Ann. It is, simply put, a five-star gift that my son will inherit when my salad eating days are done.
Now, I’ve given some wacky presents in my day. A worm composter to my sister-in-law was an abject failure. (I mean, who hates worms?) But to a girlfriend mourning the loss of her husband, I gave a pair of soft-as-a-kitten cashmere socks. I told her that if everything else was going sideways, at least her feet would feel loved. And she could think of me, in those dark, cold days of winter, when she pulled them on and felt the warmth from my heart.