My children know not to buy me ‘stuff,’ be it Valentine’s, birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas or anniversaries.
They were broken of the habit the Christmas I discovered a couple of sacks of gifts for them they had not even missed. From that Christmas onwards the children received one gift from me and Bronnie, and friends and family were discouraged from buying them stuff that wasn’t somehow useful or needed. (No, the children did not suffer. Suffering is not having enough food to eat or shoes to walk to school.)
Except books, I suppose. I can never have enough books, and it pained me to have to downsize my collection when moving to the City. The bedroom in the apartment then is part sleeping quarters, part study, and mostly library. I had several shelves built in to take the many (many) books I had whittled the collection down to.
Yes, I know. Some people would say that is no different from ‘stuff’. Except I am a firm believer that words have the power to uplift, inspire and transform us. From an early age, I would lose myself in the pages of someone’s else’s imagination for hours. Bronnie was also never far away from some complicated espionage tome or historical biography.
This love of books was passed on to our children.
Oh, and maybe perfume. Okay, definitely perfume, but again scent has the power of taking us back to a time and place we may be inadequate to conjure up with our own words; or where we simply want to sniff, close our eyes and remember. Scent, like words, has the power to do that.
Shalimar by Guerlain, for instance, will always transport me to an impossibly long banqueting staircase. I was at the top of this thing wearing a silky halter necked black dress which flirted with the floor and was slit up to ’there.’ The straps were made of crystals and crossed at the back. It was the most expensive thing I had ever owned and I wore it on the anniversary of Bronnie and I meeting. I still have that dress, although I can’t now truthfully recall the book I was reading at the time.
And this muse today was brought on by my younger son who defied my instruction not to buy me anything this Valentine’s Day. He stopped my protestations by prefacing his gift with a memory. He said: “I was on the train home and was thinking about love and growing up. I remembered the nights you or Dad read me this book over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. Here you are, mum.” And with that, he handed me a copy of the children’s book ‘Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?’
This little gift transported me to a country farmhouse full of chaos and laughter. Bronnie is burning breakfast and the children are making their mother Valentine’s cards made out of macaroni.
May your own Valentine’s Day be filled with stuff that makes you happy – like the scent of words and memories.