Giving and getting gifts

photo-101There are different philosophies of giving and getting gifts. One is that this is somewhat of a transactional process. You definitely want to give the person something he/she wants, so the best approach is to agree on a general budget, get the person’s approval for the gift, then purchase it.

I know this is rational. But I tend to go more for the “it’s the thought that counts” concept. If I need something, I buy it for myself. A gift is great if the person thought about what I’d like and, on their own, figured out that I’d be surprised and delighted.

My husband is generally more in the first category. So most years we have this conversation where he attempts to get me to tell him what I want, and I tell him that he should just pick something he thinks I’d like. He then sometimes attempts to show me a few things and get me to pick and I demur and so forth.

Which is why I’m absolutely thrilled with my birthday present this year: A map of the British and French settlements in North America from 1755. I love old maps. I always linger in the map rooms at museums. I study globes. It’s something I’ve mentioned, off-hand, that I’d love to collect someday, but have never actually done. (There were a lot of old maps printed, so while it’s not a cheap hobby, it’s a lot cheaper than collecting many other kinds of art).

Yesterday I come home to this big box. I open it to find this lovely map, which was printed in “Gentlemen’s Magazine” in London before the states were even states. The coastline around our neck of the woods is well mapped, but features like Lake Huron are more sketchy. The Native American tribes are listed, and some now big towns have names like “Ft. Toronto.”

I had no idea he’d picked this out. I’d never asked for a map. It was a complete surprise, and it is awesome! Not just the map itself, but also knowing that my husband remembered my interest in maps and thought to find an antique dealer. Now I have to figure out a good Christmas present for him. Of course, the good thing about marrying a more rational gift giver is he’ll probably just tell me.

What gifts have you been most excited to give or receive?

12 thoughts on “Giving and getting gifts

  1. “It’s something I’ve mentioned, off-hand” and “knowing that my husband remembered” That’s what makes the best gifts, knowing that someone actually pays attention to us.

    1. @jd- exactly. That’s what I think is meant by the phrase “it’s the thought that counts.” It’s said as a throw-away line, somewhat as a euphemism for something being a bad gift. But the true gift is that someone *is* thinking about you and wanting to delight you. Who wouldn’t love that?

  2. Aww, very sweet.
    DH and I had a big fight back when we were 16 when his mom picked out his first present to me. A very expensive ($80) necklace (he accidentally left the receipt in the bag) and I never ever wore jewelry. I was SO MAD. I’d been so looking forward to seeing what he would pick out for me and instead his mom who had never met me picked out something overpriced and stereotypical that had nothing to do with anything I liked or wanted. I still have that necklace somewhere… it is the only one I own (I still never wear it). The next gift (he got me an Easter present to make up for it) was something inexpensive and super thoughtful, little thoughtful things in plastic Easter eggs.
    Now we alternate between me telling him something I want (this year: pajama bottoms) and him coming up with something totally sweet and thoughtful on his own (memorable gift during DC2’s gestation: pregnancy underpants– the gift of comfort, he said, and he was right).

    1. @NicoleandMaggie — maybe he was nervous and thought his mom would do a better job picking something out? But yes, part of getting to know someone you love over time is learning that she’d prefer comfortable undies to jewelry!

  3. Favorite present ever: my first SLR. Mr. FG had been saving up for a laptop, but he used that money instead to buy me an SLR for Christmas. That part of it is what made me cry happy tears, and of course, the camera itself was super exciting too.

  4. My favorite gift was given to me by my husband a few years after we got married. On the eve of our wedding I gave him a VERY expensive watch that he’d always wanted. He was very surprised and indeed upset because he swore we’d had a specific discussion about not giving each other wedding gifts, about which I had no memory. I wasn’t expecting one though; I just wanted to surprise him with the watch. A few years later the watch and a few other valuables were stolen from our house. After we received reimbursement from the insurance claim, unbeknownst to me, rather than simply replacing his watch, instead, he bought “his and hers” used versions and had our wedding date engraved on the back of mine.

  5. My favorite gifts are always those surprise “He knows me so well!” gifts. But not everyone who buys me gifts knows me as well as my husband, so I make an Amazon wish list for them. Sometimes my husband gets stuck and I wind up with something off the list, but I’m fine with that- it’s hard to pick a winning gift every time.
    Laura, I also love maps! I’m slowly working on a “map wall” in my stairwell, and I have two big National Geographic antique-print maps in my office. I find them inspiring. They remind me of travel, not only in the concrete sense, but also travel of the imagination to different cultures and time periods.

    1. @Leanne – glad to find another map enthusiast! I love looking at them and imagining these places on contemporary maps, and also looking at how people viewed the world on historical maps. It’s kind of cool to see how accurate people were despite having no ability to view a coastline aerially. Those surveyors knew what they were doing!

  6. my favorite gifts are clothes or jewelry that my husband picks out for me, just because i love the idea of him picking it! (he also often picks great stuff, too).

    i am not going to lie: I love giving AND getting gifts. perhaps it’s materialistic and i should have outgrown it by now but . .. i hope i never do!

    1. @Sarah – Oh, I love getting gifts too. This is why I have been known to throw birthday parties for myself as an adult.

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