I'm supposed to be writing about womanhood for my manuscript. I'm supposed to think back to what I learned from my mother.
I think the biggest lesson I learned from my mother is that gifts are very important. She gives gifts to everyone. I remember, the summer after 8th grade, I was supposed to be reading The Count of Monte Cristo for summer reading. The Lebanon Library didn't have a copy in stock but the librarian unearthed one from somewhere and called us at home to get it. My mom bought her a fruit basket and made me go give it to her.
I was mortified that someone would give such a present to a lady who was just doing her job. But my mom gives presents to everyone. She stockpiles things she thinks people will like and somehow always manages to know everyone well enough to pick the perfect present for them. Each year, her favorite thing about Christmas is watching people open the presents she buys them to see the looks on their faces.
I would say my biggest sense of failure as a woman comes not from my abhorrence of makeup or inability to walk in high heels. My secret shame is that I am an awful gift buyer. Today is my grandma's birthday and I didn't even get her a card, let alone a present. Nance would have mailed the card just in time so it arrived in today's mail. Even when I remember to buy people presents, they are often crappy or turn out poorly.
Not only is Nance the most thoughtful gift giver in the world, she is also the most excited at each gift giving occasion. I am rarely surprised on a birthday because she usually tells me what she bought, unable to maintain the suspense for another instant. She used to line my presents up on the piano to tease me, as if she hadn't hinted at or directly revealed the contents of each package weeks before.
My notion of womanhood is inextricably wrapped into the art of giving gifts and, an essential piece of this, knowing people very intimately in order to be good at it. I have a very high mark to live up to, and so far I am not doing well in my quest.