Letter Openers and Chocolates

The baby girl



is no longer a baby.


She turned 3 on Tuesday.  (That’s her, above, in a photo session with her new Tinkerbell umbrella.  I think she was showing me “melancholy”.  But I’m not sure.)


We’re getting ready for her party, today.  I’m putting together obscenely swollen  loot bags for the guests.  And then it hits me:


They’re buying her presents.


Sounds obvious.  But lately, I’ve been desperately trying to rid myself, and ergo, this house, of things.  And whether I like it or not, I’ll be bringing more things into the house tonight.


I’ve previously detailed the fact that I grew up in a racially homogeneous town.  All white, except for a couple of Chinese folks who ran the cafe.  And one other family, from India. 


After all these years, I still don’t know how the hell they ended up in our town.  Mr. & Mrs. C. were teachers.  Their son Joe was born in Canada, but when it suited him, he’d trade on his minority status.  Whenever a pick-up game of football started, Joe would always shout, “Hey!  I get to be the quarterback!  The black guy always gets to be the quarterback, and I’m the closest thing you’ve got!”


At any rate, one day in Grade 4, it was Mrs. C’s birthday.  She came around to all the classrooms, Grade 1 to 6, and told us that in India, you don’t get presents on your birthday, you give them.  (I have no idea if this is true, or if she was just wacky.  But who was I to refuse a gift?)  She gave us each a small bundle, wrapped in kelly green tissue paper.  Inside was a little piece of chocolate, and a tortoiseshell letter opener.  I’m pretty sure that at that age, I’d never received a piece of mail that would necessitate such a device, but I was enthralled.


I remember thinking the Indians had the right idea where birthdays were concerned.


I still do.




(Update:  What I failed to take into account was that at 3, my kid’s friends are my friend’s kids.  And my friends are awesome.  Every single gift was perfectly suited to the girl, and the entire haul would have fit nicely into a kitchen sized garbage bag.  Man, I like my friends.)

17 responses to “Letter Openers and Chocolates

  1. That’s an interesting concept. I love giving goody bags. It’s so much fun. Did you ever read the Fellowship of the Rings and how the hobbits gave gifts for their birthdays.

  2. Ummmmmm…how nice really. It’s like the practice of having a ‘give away’ in many Native American cultures. If there is a wedding, death, etc…they simply give many of their personal items away to friends and family. Feels like a grand idea, eh?

  3. We did a party once for my daughter, when she was about eight, when we asked the other kids to bring either books or gift cards for bookstores. Kept the insane amount of loot to a minimum, and the things she got, she still has.

    I know your’s is a bit small for that . . . but maybe not . . .

  4. To the point of your post, at the same party, we gave away books to the guests. It was cool . . .

  5. It’s similar here. People don’t buy you a beer for your birthday, you buy them one. Which means that on your birthday, it’s gonna cost you, but then you get all the beers bought for you by all of your friends throughout the year on their birthdays, so it works out in your favor. Also, you can never cry about nobody throwing you a birthday party, since you are the one who is supposed to throw it and you decide how lavish it is. Back home you wait around to see if anyone will remember your birthday and invite you for a beer. That’s just makes for depressing birthdays.

  6. I keep forgetting my name.

  7. I grew up with only one black family in my entire town, but we were next to an Indian Reservation so there was that.

    I’ve never heard of that tradition but seems like a cool idea. I like giving better than getting anyways.

  8. Your daughter is beautiful! I love her “melancholy” face. I DREAD Liv’s birthday because of all the things she gets. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the thoughtfulness and generosity. Like you, I’m trying to divest myself of THINGS, because those things are taking over my tiny home. Every birthday, every Christmas, hell every single holiday, she’s getting more and more gifts and I have no room for any of it. I’m stunned by all the gifts, frankly. When I grew up I didn’t celebrate any holidays or my birthday, so I’m not really familiar with all these gift-giving traditions. I like the idea of giving gifts on your birthday. Hmmmm. Maybe I’ll do that from now on.

  9. Yeah, every year before my punks bday, I make her get rid of toys. One for every year old she is. That way we make room for the new ones.

    Your daughter is TOO cute for words!

  10. Never heard of that one, and I’m 100% Indian.

    We are however, expected to throw a big bash and buy everyone liquor. It all pans out cause while I buy the liquor, I also make it clear that entering the booze zone without presents for self will invariably involve smashing empty bottles upon the culprits head.

    Mrs. C was lying. We do that, our lot. A lot.

  11. Hope the party went well!

    For my son’s 9th birthday last month, he decided he wanted to buy popcorn for all the kids in his class, with his own birthday money.

    I thought that was pretty cool of him.

    Hmmmm… I’m thinking his real parents are going to want him back soon ….

  12. I’ve never heard of that practice before, but it does sound interesting.

  13. Three already?
    Happy birthday to the baby girl of the family.

  14. faemom: I haven’t read those books for (gasp) nearly 25 years. So I’m missing a few details.

    mongoliangirl: I like that.

    tysdaddy: That sounds awesome! I tried to convince the boy to have a “gifts for charity” party. Couldn’t quite sell it, to a 6 year old. Maybe when he’s 7…

    bluestreak/blue: I figured that one out after the Great Disappointment that was my 30th. Now, I broadly hint to a friend who can be relied on in these matters, or get it planned myself. Except for the paying for all the booze bit. I’d have to remortgage the house for that.

    vinomom: When adults said they liked giving more, I used to cry; I NEVER wanted to be old enough that that was true. But here we are.

    Gwen: Wow, I guess the whole birthday mania would be crazy to you, wouldn’t it? I’m for sure giving out loot bags on my next birthday, though. Because I’ve got some ideas.

    DPH: That is a wicked idea. I’m stealing it, it’s mine now.

    Monty: I was really hoping you’d weigh in on that one. You did not disappoint. Unlike Slumdog Millionaire (I’m kidding. I never saw it. I was just Monty-baiting)

    Kim: Awww! Want my kids for a couple of weeks? Maybe it’ll rub off.

    mkh: That would work, except for the choruses of “I already HAVE that one!”

    Southern (in)Sanity: Turns out it’s bull. But a cool concept, nevertheless.

    Kitty: Thanks! Time, she is whizzing past.

  15. Glad to live up the billing. 🙂

    Heh, SM is the most overrated piece of cinema I’ve seen in a while. Don’t even get me started on it. You’re better off not seein it, to be honest. It’s a load of horseshit.

  16. How precious is she! So sweet. Glad the gift situation worked out well.

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