Gift Circle

Every time I walk by my kitchen table, the scent of my Mother’s Day bouquet fills the air around me. I close my eyes and breathe deeply of this perfume…and I smile. It catches me by surprise every time. And I feel cherished.

The sentiment behind this simple gift lingers these days later—clinging with this heavy aroma. It brings to mind images of my boys, makes me remember mother’s day morn and fills my heart with love. This vase holds more than a clutch of lilies.

Today I am thinking of gifts. And how they stay in a heart and bring to mind the giver.

New York Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope, in this article, contemplates the same:

Gift giving has long been a favorite subject for studies on human behavior, with psychologists, anthropologists, economists and marketers all weighing in. They have found that giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends. Indeed, psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from a gift.

Parker-Pope quotes Ellen J. Langer, Harvard professor, who describes receiving as the gift of giving. She says that the giving of gifts nurtures relationships, encourages bonds between individuals, and improves intimacy by encouraging the giver to think about the recipient—contemplating what the giftee likes.

Hmm…I finger soft petals–let the aroma work its mind-altering magic. Did my boys contemplate which bouquet I would like best? Did they poke their noses up to each variety and wonder which scent would linger long? And did these ministrations on their mother further root our love-tie?

I smile at my romantic notions as I try to visualize such a scene. I know their daddy picked these lovelies up at the grocery store on his way home from work. They hid in his car until Saturday night when he surreptitiously placed them here–front and center–after I had gone to bed. But this knowledge does not diminish the tenderness I feel as I study pollen peppered stamen.

In fact, it deepens my joy.

All this for me.

Sometimes the gift holds more than what is wrapped up.

I recall a time, early in my career, when the neuropsychologist I worked for gifted me with a very generous Christmas present. I protested.

I cannot accept this, I told him.

Of course you can, was his reply. Laura, he said, once a year I get to show you how much I appreciate all that you do for me. This gift is small when compared to my gratitude.

I carry these words with me still.

It was noted psychologist Eric Fromm who said that it is the act of loving that we find rewarding, Ellen Langer notes in Psychology Today.

… the more we give, the more we come to care about the person to whom we are giving. We feel alive in the activity. And it is the receiver who has provided the opportunity for us to feel this good, so we feel loving in return.

It is not in the receiving, but in the giving that love grows.

Is this why my heart aches with the burden of this heavy love with each passing year? As the tally of the giving continues on, will my heart faint under this weight?

Most mothers, self-included, are not so skilled in the receiving category. Yet, to encourage a mutual affection—one that nourishes both parties, Langer says, we must learn to receive well.

This is how we keep from sinking under the weight of giving.

We receive.

For mutual satisfaction, both parties must be allowed to experience the joy of giving. Receiving from my loved ones is the gift.

I saw this on Mother’s Day morn. My boys clamored around me as I descended the stairs (they kept watchful eye to make sure I slept in). Their anticipation of my reaction to my gifts was beautiful. Their joy increased mine.

The beauty in this is that there does not have to be a special occasion to experience this mutual joy. Each time I give to my loved ones, I am modeling for them this very behavior.

Giving. A circle of joy. It always comes back around.


  1. says

    Lovely images accompanying a wonderful post.

    The heart expands to accept the love given. It’s amazing what this fist-sized muscle can do.

  2. says

    I’m great at giving gifts, but my expertise at accepting them needs a little work. It’s a little embarrassing for me to admit that, but true. I’m slowly learning the value in allowing myself to be given to. That’s a good thing, I think.

  3. says

    Oh that image with the cup-shaped lilly is beauty. It suites your words and reminds us to allow ourselves to be filled some of the time too.

    (wishing blogger would add a scratch-n-sniff function here someday)


  4. says

    My husband works for a nonprofit, and he is always talking about how blessed people are when they give, and how he can sometimes provide an opportunity for them to be blessed, if they choose to give to his organization.

  5. says

    Your photographs are breathtaking, and I really like your thoughts here, too. My son Noah is a natural gift-giver — I truly believe he gets more pleasure in giving than in receiving. He’s also a gracious receiver — I am learning a lot from him on how to give and receive.

  6. says

    So sweet!
    I love the part about the boys anticipating your joy as you walked down the stairs.
    I can just picture their little faces.
    You have a precious family.
    Great post!
    Love you & so glad you had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

  7. says

    My grandmother’s favorite — the stargazer lily. I often found them in her kitchen, along with other flowers. She bought fresh flowers every week and put them in large vases where she could gaze at them. Sometimes she painted them.

    The stargazers found their way into my wedding because she made the floral arrangements herself.

  8. says

    Beautiful lilies, Laura. They look just like the Stargazers that fill our back yard with fragrance every July.

    This gift-giving post took me back to our Gift conversations at HighCallingBlogs. Lewis Hyde certainly got us thinking and I appreciate the reminder.

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