Scrawled Notes, Gifts, & Why Flowers Aren’t Stupid
I love gifts.
I am not greedy. This is not materially derived.
It is not even so much the getting of gifts, as giving them.
I feel the thing you give is not yours, but the person who inspired it.
This is the point whether it is a flower or a poem.
What a gift means is imbued with the person who receives it. It already belonged to them.
“This is yours. I found you in it.”
It is a simple thing.
Perhaps, being raised Latina, I don’t have the same Protestant idea of debt or whatever strange fear that makes people look at gifts as some chain or weapon of obligation. (I wonder if they feel the same of other intimacy and hope not to find out first hand.) A gift is not currency. And, if it expects reciprocity, it is not a gift, but a pernicious, simulacral bribe. Growing up, I learned that it was simply an expression. My parents are both incredibly generous people — and neither came from much. It did not have to be an occasion. And, often, I know they went without to smuggle some small treat or surprise for others. It became a game, a fun game of affection tag. I hid homemade cards in my parents’ things and embellished homemade brown-bag lunches with crayons and hid them in my mother’s purse. She was busy with night school, work, and motherhood and despite full cabinets, she did not eat much. But gifts are much more than things. They are simple as a scrawled note, a tuck in bed, food left out for someone, a courtesy extended, time given, or a wildflower plucked. It is awareness and notice of someone. It’s the perfect skipping stone given to someone else, because they can and you cannot. It’s the last piece of pizza or a favorite chocolate. “This bite is better because it is your joy. Now you know mine.”
And it is something that makes your heart swell with estrangement when you find them in all those things and they are not around. A greeting card would come in the mail from my father because he was thinking of me. My best friend would send me a poem, knowing it would feed me gooey emotions. When I was gone over a weekend, my mother would decorate my room or find some little gift that let me know she had been thinking of me, maybe even while doing something as mundane as folding the laundry. I often love the things left from a person when they aren’t there, wrapping into a lover’s shirt when they are gone. A messy or made bed after a friend is gone. These little things are such powerful fetishes. I do not need them to remember someone, but I bask in them. Utterly. And, to me, it is of such great importance that someone knows what they mean, the extraordinary effect they have to organically come into mind. That these are not so much love notes or rewards, but a sharing of the reality they cannot see they abide in.
So, here is my defense of flowers, which I remember explaining to my sunshine ex, when we were just getting started.
“What is the point of flowers if they will just die?”
“It’s exactly about the ephemeralness. It’s the moment. I saw something beautiful and I thought of you.”
It’s a lot better than seeing something cruel and thinking of that person. And I would bring home sunflowers because they reminded me of his wide, tan face and big open heart that followed the sunlight and other warm things. We connect things. The feelings of a flower, a vista, a pirate hat. And when that person is thought of, they are there with you in that moment. “I found you in this flower.” Which is why what kind or flowers or small treats matter so much. These are languages that are both refined and extemporaneous — each with their blooms.
And the wonderful thing about flowers, is you can get them again and again. Yesterday you thought of me when you saw something beautiful. I thought of you when I discovered something delicious and left it at your door. You and I will have another and another and another ephemeral moment, building in stimuli as we continue to learn and notice one another. It is a celebration, wanting to ornament a moment. It is a hope for the enduring of memory, that I will save this small and fleeting chunk of time. I remember coming home, exhausted, and seeing bouquets. Or when my lover could not be there, the most stunning array of nature’s best work exploding for weeks on the glass living room table, saturating the apartment with my desire to be near him — how many times I read that note, pinned it to my refrigerator, I could not count.
When I find you in my heart, or a lost thought, or a memory as I look at a fat robin — shouldn’t you know how big you are? Shouldn’t you have that warmth of intimacy that spins like diatomic atoms and string theory? We are so much bigger than we know. And if you leave, I will miss you because of those parts of you that are known. If you leave and I hate you, it will be for that effect. For if I abhor you, I do not see you in beautiful things and those things that remind me of you are met with revulsion. We can ruin things, too. We can desiccate things of their potential. We are constantly displacing mass and influencing meaning. And if you are tepid and banal, filling time without substance, you are the white noise that will always exist, too, but never be known as anything else. I guess this is also part of my rant about gifting. It is simply, that the first gift is trusting someone to let them know you and to know them so that they may exist in this one palpable, transcendental way.
If I see or experience a thing and it makes me smile or share it with you — or even if it makes me wistfully or painfully think of you — I know by the compass of my heart who you are. You have brought something to life. That smile and those feelings are yours, too. It is the artifact of who you are, the long reach of your ongoing creation.