My best friend – let me call her I – and I have known each other since the fifth grade – strangely enough, we only saw each other one day a week at Japanese school for one year before she move back to Japan – but somehow we kept in touch and our friendship grew stronger throughout the years. I and I would visit each other as often as we could, send eachother birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and occasional care packages, we would even do this thing called a koukan-nikki, or Diary-swapping (just as it sounds!). Although about as far apart as two friends could be, and despite weeks going by at times without communicating, we were always closely connected in some quantum-physical, universal-consciousness way.
The biggest fault that I has is that she is tremendously difficult to shop for. First, she has impeccable taste – an asset in her profession as a buyer for one the the premium haute couture brands, I’m sure, but it does inconveniently raise the bar when it comes to choosing a gift for her. Second, her job takes her to Italy at least 4 times a year, which means the automatic coolness value that usually comes with “look! I got this for you in Italy!” becomes diminutive. In fact, she is rather well-traveled, so the “look! I got this for you in fill-in-the-blank!” generally does not work anyway.
So just how un-fun is it to shop for this friend of mine? Well, actually, it’s not un-fun at all … she is in fact the funnest person to shop for! Why is that? Because when we shop for each other, we think beyond how much we want to spend, or what we think the other might need, or whether she already has something similar. We both look past the overt usefulness or functionality of an object and revel in the meaning of the gift – whether it be a pair of pig dolls locked in an embrace (they look just like us!), or a ridiculous but cute retractable key holder in the shape of a capibara (reminds us of when we took photos of each other making faces like the oversized rodent) .
These are the best kinds of gifts to give and receive, and will far outlast the gifts that may be higher in dollar value but come with little or no personal meaning. I still own a fork and spoon set I gave me back in 1985 … the same day we set the world record in longest time spent in a Sanrio shop without getting kicked out (well, they didn’t have to get the security guards anyway). Today, I get overwhelmed by nostalgia and joy as I watch my 2-yr old daughter eating with the same fork and spoon.