Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived alone with her parents. All her uncles and aunts with the cousins and the only two grandparents she had left lived far away from her. At the time flying was a luxury and it would take her and her parents long car or train trips to go and visit them, much more than a day length journey. Internet was not yet invented (or at least not accessible to the population) and private couriers were very expensive, whilst the national post could be quite slow and unreliable.
Her parents lead a modest existence always trying to make ends meet. They were both born at the end of the World War II, last children of big families of 6 or more. They had heard the whole of their childhood how little money there was available and how it was essential not to waste it on superficial items of leisure, with the only exception of big thick books written with very little fonts and without images on them.
It should come as no surprise therefore to notice that the little girl got easily used from a very young age to receive very little gifts and not to expect them anyway, as she received so little attention in general. She would get a birthday present at the beginning of the academic year since she was born in September and another one for Christmas, rarely anything else throughout the year. When she got ‘old enough’ (10, maybe 12) her parents gave up completely even the element of surprise and would just ask her what she wanted to receive as they were not much into celebration in general anyway, probably because they never got even a tiny bit spoiled by their own parents in their childhood in the fifties (expect for a bicycle that the mum of the little girl received as a big exceptional event when she was 8).
The furniture in her room was not a kids bedroom set but rather an accumulation of spare pieces of unwanted furniture not matching together and not particularly suitable for her age or to play and store toys with. She could not remember since what age she stopped asking for toys she would desire after seeing them on TV ads and started to get accostumed every time she dreamed of something (such as a plastic set of kitchen and supermarket pretend toys, or a dolls house) to use spare card boards, plastic bottles, paper and colours to build or draw what she needed to have for her imaginary solitary play scenario.
Her parents had very little social life and rarely stroke up friendships with other parents from school or any other people. The only family friends that came to visit once a year had met them when she was a baby and they lived in a different town. They had become wealthier than them, despite the same humble origins and they were always coming with a big present for the little girl as they had a daughter of the same age. The girl’s parents would feel extremely embarrassed from such a gesture as they could not afford anything to their friends’ daughter in exchange and felt humiliated even when their friends would say that it did not matter, even a little something would have made their daughter happy as well. At some point they got to the point of asking their friends in a direct way in front of the little girl to stop bringing her any presents when they were visiting.
Throughout the years the paradoxical consequence of such a situation was that the little girl started to forget little by little how it felt to open a present until she became a woman who had no idea what you naturally do when you receive a gift.
The excitement of not knowing what is inside, the magical feeling of being loved and cared for to the point of receiving something chosen specifically for you, the spontaneity in believing you deserve a little treat now and then… That is why 25 years later, whilst opening her secret Santa present in front of her best girl friends group last night, she was actually sweating, feeling uncomfortable at the centre of so much attention, unable to analyse her emotions provoked by what she had received (did she liked it? Did she had to show it?), feeling rather numb instead and smiling as a circumstance, thanking the lovely girl who got her the gift.
It was a deliciously scented candle and a smart soft leather notepad to write down her sudden inspirations for her blog, with the word ‘wise’ on top and the drawing of an elegant owl.
This is without any doubt such a gracious lovely present that every woman who knows how to look after herself and others would choose. So thank you very much my secret Santa from the bottom of my heart for reminding me what it feels like to be worth receiving a present, even when it is a non essential physical life saving one, but as much essential as it heals the soul.