My best friend in the world is having her first child this year, and I want to lavish gifts on her and her new family. I know I'm going to adore that kid. I want him to enter this world with everything from a lifetime membership to the National Park system to a magical tollbooth to a silver spoon from Tiffany .
I don't have children myself, so my search for gifts for her was the first time I've ever really, really looked at every single thing a new family really needs and tallied it up. Wow. Dang. Kids cost money. They don't stop costing money for a long, long time. I knew that ... but I didn't know it know it. All I can say is, thank god for coupons, and for Denise who shows me how to use them.
So I'm spending my gift money wisely, on something extremely practical that the family really needs. But that's not our friendship. She's the most thoughtful gift giver I have ever met, and gifts so personal they're almost magical have become an important tradition for us. I know we're going to continue that tradition into the next generation. So though I put my budget toward the necessary, I needed to put my mind to the extraordinary:
1. Quotes from your favorite children's books.
Every birthday, I'll be giving at least one of the below books as they become age-appropriate.
- "You should never, never doubt something that no one is sure of."
— Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
- "Smiling without good reason is demeaning."
— Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game)
- "Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself." — Madeleine L'Engle (Mrs. Whatsit, A Wrinkle in Time)
- "Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."
— E.L. Konigsberg (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)
- "If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."
— Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden)
- "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer."
— E.B. White (Charlotte's Web)
- "Everything's a story. You are a story."
— Francis Hodgson Burnett (A Little Princess)
- "So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible."
— Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth)
2. Dirty work -- the dirtier the better.
If you live nearby, write a card pledging to help out with daily stuff, in whatever amount of time you can give. If you can budget to deliver a home-cooked dinner once or twice a month, I find that's always appreciated. Or car washing, or errand running, or babysitting the older kids, or housecleaning. Ask yourself: What can you do, immediately and recurringly, to make your friend's life better? You'd do this anyway if she asked you -- the gift is in the reaching out and not waiting to be asked. I don't live nearby, alas, but am already thinking ahead to what I can affordably do from afar to make her life easier (ideas appreciated!).
A mutual friend bought a jar in Spain, where our mom-to-be friend is from, and has saved it for years. She's asked all of us to fill it with hopes and wishes for the new family. I'm going to continue to send wishes for the jar (via snail mail, which must be even more entrancing to children now that it's so much less routine) as I think of them.
4. Something treasured from your own childhood.
My friend doesn't know it yet (shhh), but I am giving her child my own baby blanket. It's not much to look at (unless you like retro bunnies, though, really, who doesn't?), but it's an emotional talisman that I know she'll get -- and turn into a story to tell her child.
Your turn: What are your favorite meaningful and frugal gifts to give a treasured friend as she adds to her family?
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