From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

Birthday Presents

I clicked my Palm Pilot and flashing words reminded me that I had not completed a task. Staring at the screen, I worried about what in the world I was going to get Colette for her birthday. After almost thirty years of friendship, I was running out of ideas. And it wasn’t just for Colette.

I was blessed to have seven incredible lifelong friendships that began in my childhood. Colette, Marcy, Amy and I became steadfast friends while coloring in kindergarten. We added Mary, Kimmie and Rachel to the group in junior high while chasing boys. Claudette joined us in high school while going to football games. With friendships that spanned decades, together we played jump rope, studied, went to dances, fell in and out of love, graduated, traveled, began careers, really fell in love, married and had children. This colorful group of friends had seen each other at our very best and our very worst. No matter what changed in our lives, one thing stayed the same—our friendships.

Here I was, though, staring at my Palm Pilot realizing I was going to be really late with Colette’s birthday gift if I did not buy her something today. What could I get her? Last year was a magazine subscription to O, the Oprah Magazine, the year before that Yankee candles, before that Crate and Barrel wineglasses, and before that scrapbook-making kits. Besides, as my friends married and we grew older, we already had just about everything we needed. What could I buy her?

The phone rang and I was happy to escape my unsuccessful pondering. Marcy greeted me cheerfully and began to tell me about last night’s girls’ dinner. Conversations like this always made me miss my childhood home in Illinois and made it hard to live in Washington, D.C., so far from my friends. Marcy filled me in on the latest gossip. Mary was pregnant with child number four and Amy’s son Jake was potty-training. Colette would probably be engaged very soon and Marcy was finalizing her wedding plans. On and on we chatted while laughing about the latest happenings in our lives. Finally, I asked Marcy what she was giving Colette for her birthday. Marcy exclaimed, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you! Last night we were all talking about our birthdays and how hard it is to buy something unique and useful after all these years of friendship. Also, with everyone having kids, school costs, homes, vacations and basically life, we decided that expensive birthday gifts for our friends really add up. So we decided that this year we’re giving each other socks.” I laughed and said, “What a great idea!” Marcy continued, “No more than two pairs and they can be any kind of socks. You know, those cute little socks with patterns, or trouser socks, or workout socks. Whatever you want. Next year we’re all giving underwear! You should have heard that discussion about who wears thongs, granny underwear or lace! It was hilarious. The year after that we’re giving earrings. Isn’t this fun?” I quickly agreed and kept smiling. We chatted a few more minutes and hung up.

I tossed my Palm Pilot into my purse and headed to the store. While driving, I couldn’t help but think about how smart my friends were. It wasn’t the physical gift or the amount of money we spent that was important. What was important was celebrating our friends’ birthdays. The inexpensive themes allowed us to be clever, and perhaps even funny, yet it would be low stress and useful. As I thought of the years ahead, I smiled because from now on birthday buying was going to be so easy and fun. And when you really think about it, regardless of what’s inside when we unwrap each other’s presents, what we really unwrap is our love.

Marguerite Murer

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