Looking forward to having a few minutes of peace and quiet, I pulled into a parking spot next to the building, turned off the engine and leaned back. One minute later the dismissal bell rang. In a remarkably short time a steady stream of grade school children poured out of the school. Hoping my daughters remembered not to take the bus home tonight, I scanned the crowd.
They had remembered. Ten-year-old Niki stepped out of the building with six-year-old Tammie at her side. Niki must have gone to her sister’s kindergarten room to make sure they didn’t get separated. Stopping in front of the school, Niki studied the row of parked cars. Both girls quickly spotted me and ran towards the car with big grins on their faces.
Tammie clutched something in her hand. Giving the object to me, she excitedly blurted, “Angie is having a birthday party and I’m invited!” The crumpled card gave the date and time of the party.
“It’s a good thing we’re going shopping today.” I said, mentally adding Angie’s birthday gift to my shopping list. “You can help pick the gift out.”
My daughters loved visiting the toy isle at the department store. As they excitedly examined the merchandise, I spotted several ‘My Little Pony’ figures that they had received for Christmas and their birthdays. Tammie liked one figure on the shelf in particular. She exclaimed, “That’s Roary Lion from Moon Dreamers!” I picked up the yellow plastic lion. It was wearing a crown and had wings. Print on the package stated, ‘Glows in the dark’.
Eager to finish shopping so I could get home to make supper, I put Roary into the shopping cart and forgot all about him.
On Saturday, before Angie’s birthday party, I found the little lion and wrapped him in gift paper. In the car on the way to her friend’s house, Tammie burst into tears. I pulled over and asked with concern, “What’s wrong, Tammie?”
Gulping, she sobbed, “I want Roary Lion for myself.”
Feeling bad for her, I tried to comfort her with the sage wisdom of a mother. “Did you know you will be giving the very best present to Angie today? The best gift a person can give another, is something they would want for themselves. You really want this toy! That makes it the best gift she will receive!”
Crisis averted. From all accounts, my daughter gave the gift and enjoyed the party.
Who ever said, “The best gift you can give to another is one you would want for yourself” never thought about different tastes that gift-givers have…or owned a cat. A tuxedo tomcat named Flicker, one of my pets when my daughters were small, was very happy when we moved back to our country home along the river. All that summer, whenever I turned around, he was laying a dead mouse at my feet. That might have been the gift he wanted for himself, but it was certainly not to my taste. I tried not to hurt his feeling by looking too disgusted.
Saying “Thank-you”, or at least not looking disgusted about what gift was given to them, is the second part of the motherly advice I’ve given to my daughters. Before Christmas and their birthdays, I’d prepare them by instructing, “Even if you hoped for a doll, but found clothing when you open a gift, smile nicely and say you like it.”
You would think that the passing of three decades would have dimmed Tammie’s memory of Roary Lion and how sad she felt about giving a toy she wanted for herself. When we talked about it recently, I discovered the memory is crystal clear in her mind. I commiserated, “I felt so bad for you. I wanted to go out and buy another Roary Lion.”
My daughter chuckled, “Look in the toy box. I think you did get one for me several months later as a Christmas gift.”
Shrugging, I replied, “It’s funny I don’t remember buying one for you, but I very clearly remember feeling bad for you on the day of the party.”