Monday, January 28, 2008

Musings on the art of re-gifting...

For the sake of the planet (and my no-new-buying pledge), please, Betty, can you make the art of the re-gift not only socially acceptable, but hip?

Because the first stumbling block on the road of my "1 year of no-buying pledge" came just three weeks after my pledge was official (Jan 1).

I had neglected to consider gift-giving.

Am I actually going to find recycled items or re-gift items I already have at home for an entire 12 months for every birthday, holiday, special occasion, or baby shower?

The prospect is especially challenging when you gaze out at the landscape that is the raising of two young children. Look closely, you can see a lot of store-bought cakes (hello artificial sweeteners), balloons (the favorite choking material of the beloved brown pelican), toys and gifts (can you say large department store that enjoys bright plastic, over packaging and massive life-size posters of Hannah Montana?!), and cheap goody bags (with made in China written all over them). It looks dismal indeed for the parent who is trying to green even the most un-green of events: the birthday party. Luckily, we don't have to worry about giving one until next month. But this month we were invited to one. What to do?

I hark back to my own 30th birthday party, when my good friend gave me a full set of plastic summer tumblers that she had clearly regifted to me in perhaps a last-minute gift panic.

Did I keep those hideous tumblers for an obligatory amount of time thinking I would one day use them? YES.
Did I donate them to the local charity soon after realizing that day would never come? CERTAINLY.
Do I love her just the same, whether she buys me something for my birthday or not? YES.

Ah, there's the rub, my green friends!

Easy for me to say.

I have to admit -- I am a little gun-shy of the re-gift because I have experienced the awkward and embarasssing situation of being outed.

I'll tell you the tale. We were at my friend's son's birthday party having a grand time managing the chaos, when all came to a hush for the concluding activity: the opening of the presents. When Johnny (names have changed to protect the innocent) opened up our gift, my precocious three-year old yells, "We got that last Christmas, but we're giving it to you!" Ouch. I was speechless with my smile suddenly frozen. It hurt.

But you know what? Life went on. Will my friend likely donate or re-gift this present? Probably. And does my friend love me just the same? Certainly.

So Johnny's birthday arrives this year and I mentally eliminate re-gifting as an option given last year's outing and I ask her what Johnny wants for his birthday this year. Answer: a ten-dollar bionicle. Simple and it's what he wants. Great.

Then I remember my no-buying pledge. Hmm. Searching for a loophole... And here it is: this is one of those times I made a choice to take the path of lesser evil.

On the one hand: re-gift an item that I know he really doesn't want. On the other hand: choose something that he will at least appreciate and use. On the one hand: give in to the magnetic pull of Target or Toys R Us vs. smaller locally-owned toy store Shenanigans with familiar, friendly faces. On the one hand: gobs of overpackaged bright plastic testorone-laden toys. On the other hand: one bionicle wrapped in a reused party bag with our recycled paper gift tag.

Given the options, I do not regret sending my husband in (;-) to purchase of one uber tough-guy bionicle. Besides, I even managed to play clean-up crew and brought the bag back home from the party unnoticed.

Green report card: B for the effort.


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