Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Poignant, Powerful Gift with No Power Chord: What We Can Learn About Gift Giving & Bringing Comfort From a College Bound Teen

At the risk of stereotyping: one of the great things about teenage boys, (well my teenage boys) is that as long as they have some form of technology in their hands, they do not want very much else.

Last August when it came time to kit Aron out for his college room, he didn't seem to want or need anything.

Hangers? -I can take them from my wardrobe.

New blanket? - I'll take the one from my bed.

Garbage can? -I'll take the one from my room...and so it went on.

Aron, unlike many of his (female) friends did not want to buy up the brochure display of college rooms or have everything matching. 

I, on the other hand, wanted to buy him ONE new thing for his college room or at the very least, encourage him to use some of the generous gift cards he had received as graduation gifts. 

He was embarking on a new phase and a new bedroom and I wanted to mark the milestone. 

When I finally convinced him to come with me to Bed, Bath and Beyond, (For UK readers, this is as close to John Lewis as you can get -except it's nothing like it) he was itching to leave, almost as soon as we walked through the door.

Have you ever had that experience?

I convinced him he needed some 'over the door hooks' so that maybe, maybe he'd hang up his towel and coat!?

This seemed like a huge accomplishment.

And then out of the corner of my eye,  I spied something I knew he would love.

Aron dawdled behind me as I sidled up to an overflowing display of ultra soft, body shaping, memory foam mattress toppers and suggested he might like one to use on his bed at college.

This mattress topper seemed like a great idea.

Firstly because college mattresses do not score high marks for comfort.

And secondly because fabric textures have always been important to Aron. He has always been hyper-aware of how things feel, close to his skin. (Think: clothing labels, sock seams, itchy sweaters,stiff materials etc.)

He does not like wearing suits and ties, and until he was 10 years old, he wouldn't wear anything with a button or zip. I remember schlepping  around looking for elastic waisted shorts and pants for years and then bribed him into ones with zips. (Yes. I admit it.)

Now he tolerates shirts and trousers and of course as an EMT and firefighter, he's forever putting on clothing with multiple buttons and zips and other fasteners.

So, you can understand why this mattress topper met Aron's criteria of 'useful, soft and comforting'. 

I rationalized with him, that with all the stress of starting college, a good night's sleep was really important and this mattress topper would help him cope with many of the unknowns coming his way. 

It would literally wrap him in comfort, treat him kindly and nurture him at night.

It would be a hug from home.

Aron accepted this gift, gracefully and he has thanked me for it many times since.

This story started me thinking: 

What are the gifts that are the 'mattress toppers' of our lives?

What are the objects, actions and gestures that bring us comfort? 

And what makes them so meaningful?

The items and actions we value most, often don't have to hold a prominent place in our homes or a spot next to our beds. 

These things do not necessarily enhance the ambience or decor of our living spaces. 

They are often invisible. ( Like thermal underwear!)

But they make a difference to the quality of our lives.

What are their characteristics?
  • They are unique to each of us. 
  • They reflect our preferences and priorities 
  • They are often, bloody useful!
  • They demonstrate love and thoughtfulness. 
  • They remind us of our childhood comforts.

Acts of kindness, compassion, friendship,  gratitude and empathy are things that make us choke with emotion, the things that seep into our hearts and that remind us we are not alone.

These are the things that in times of change, crisis, sadness, loneliness, illness or despair are often what we need most.

They are often what bring us to tears when we have been stoic and help us through when we are in deep emotional pain.

'Mattress toppers' are most of all an expression of our care for each other.

They bridge the loneliness gap, are engrained in our memories  and wrap us in comfort. 

What 'mattress toppers' have you given or received? 

Why were they so special to you or the person you gave them to? 

What would you love to receive most as a symbol of love, care and comfort?

Let me know how preparing for college has gone for you and your teen. Hope it's not too quiet.


You may also enjoy:

Boys and Their Bedrooms

Words of Wisdom for Our College Bound Teens

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  1. I just dropped off my freshman daughter this afternoon. I don't agree that BBB is like John Lewis; doesn't John Lewis have clothes, and elevators & escalators? Your cousin & my mother have a mutual friend who worked in John Lewis for years, and I used to stop in to see her there - in the 80s - when I was traveling in London.

    I don't know what comfort item my daughter took, but what's comforting to me is knowing my married daughter is living 5 minutes away from her (yes, as of 3 months ago I have a married daughter... it's still weird to write that!)

    Hopefully all the kids will adjust just fine! It's an adjustment here at home too.

  2. Wow -a lot of changes and adjustment for your family! Mazal tov to you all. Having your daughters close to each other is a blessing, for them and for you. My youngest had a very difficult time, when each of his brothers left for college and it got quieter and quieter. Being "left behind' can be challenging.

    I only compare John Lewis to BBB in order to explain that, that is where you go in the UK /US to buy kitchen and bedroom small appliances, bedding etc.in each country I do add a hint of sarcasm in that I think they are nothing alike otherwise! I'm wondering if I know the person who worked at John Lewis.I always loved the store and love visiting it when I'm in the UK.

    Good luck with all the milestones in your house. Bittersweet I'm sure!

  3. What a thought-provoking post, Gilly. Pondering these questions, a couple of things come to mind: Our next door neighbor brought us an "Empty Nest Survival Kit" this summer, consisting of wine, goblets, herbal teas and matching mugs, and truffles. Several weeks later, this same friend contacted me as we were on our way home from an emotionally and physically draining out of town trip, saying she was bringing dinner over that evening. To say that we felt truly cared for was an understatement. We were starved in both body and soul, and were fed. It was a beautiful feeling to be cared for. Thank you again....I really need to write these 'gifts' down, so I can read them again on the not-so-good days.

  4. Loving your pictures and the genuine and poignant way you have put your story across - you're an inspiration and I am following your journey - awesome work!