Monday, April 30, 2007

The Gift of the Magi and Other Communication Disasters

Does The Gift of the Magi drive anyone else crazy? In the classic tale by O. Henry, Jim and Della are a newlywed couple who have no money to spend on gifts at Christmas. Jim sells his treasured watch to buy decorative combs for Della’s hair, and Della sells her beautiful hair to buy a special watch chain for Jim. This is supposed to be a tale of sacrifice, and how much they loved each other.

To me, it seems like they had a communications breakdown. One presumes that Della’s hair was admired by Jim, and Jim’s heirloom watch was valued by Della too. So, they got rid of something that was meaningful to the other partner. Did they have to buy something of material value in order to feel important, or could they have instead enjoyed a dream of their future as a gift instead?

Yes, yes, I know the whole point about the “wisdom of the magi” and how blessed Jim and Della are, and it’s a very sweet story. But is it too much to ask for them talk to each other?

A worse version is the “Magi”- inspired episode of “Little House on the Prairie” (the TV show, not the books), where Pa spends a ton of effort making wagon wheels to sell to buy a saddle for Laura’s horse, and Laura sells her horse to buy a stove for Ma. There were a lot of other convolutions in the story, but the characters actually come off as selfish, because they are unnecessarily sacrificing, almost as if it’s to gain attention.

There is joy in giving. So why doesn’t Laura let her whole family share in the joy of giving Ma the stove? Everyone could pitch in, make small sacrifices together, prepare for the surprise and make the gift as a loving family. Instead, she secretly sells the horse and gets the sole credit. This episode really annoys my mom too.

It can be very noble to give up something that’s meaningful to you in order to care for someone else. Just choose wisely. And talk to each other.

Last month, Rugger Mom sent Q some delightfully illustrated books from Australia by Mem Fox. The pictures are gorgeous and Q loves to page through them, examining each lavishly detailed drawing.

There is one tale that reminds me of the Magi (really, this does tie together somehow). In the story, Koala Lou’s mommy koala used to say, “I love you” all the time, but with all the new little brothers and sisters, Koala Lou doesn’t get much attention any more. So Koala Lou decides to train for the Olympics, figuring that if she wins, her mother will say she loves her. She races, she loses, she comes home crying, and her mother says, “I love you.” Huh.

I recognize that I’m over-interpreting, but it drives me nuts. Mother Koala, tell your baby you love her, and Koala Lou, ask your mother for a hug! (Please don't be offended, RuggerMom. We love the book because Q adores the pictures, and I get to say “I love you” lots and lots while reading it out loud.)

I’m unable to come up with a clever ending that summarizes the whole post (since these days, my friends who cut off their hair are donating it to make wigs for children with cancer, instead of selling it for cash), but I’ll put in a plug for talking to those you love.

If you are worried, if you need help, please say something. It can be hard to do, but communication is really, really important.


K goose blog said...

As we are in the same boat as you guys I think we saw four movies in 06 - devil wears prada being one... I really enjoyed the movie... I need to figure out a way to get a job to comp my clothes... That would be a dream come true!

bubandpie said...

Love this.

Mayberry said...

Such a good point. Similarly (and much more facetiously) this is why most sitcoms are so annoying! I hate when they are based entirely on misunderstandings.

Lady M said...

K Goose - yeah, comp'd clothes, plus someone to help me pick them!

Bubandpie - thanks!

Mayberry - Agreed - I can't stand the "overheard only part of a conversation and everything deteriorates from there" episodes of anything.

Mamacita Tina said...

One of the pacts my husband and I made when we got married was to keep each other informed. It could be of upcoming events, worries, celebrations, fears/concerns, hurt feelings, but we talk out everything. Sometimes, he has to remind me that he can't read my mind, he's right, of course, and then I spill it.

fourthbreakfast said...

Yes, the Little House on the Prairie episode bugs. As I've gotten older, I've realized that I have an obligation to communicate about how I'm doing. It's not a one way street where other people have to ask how I'm doing before I tell them. What's that story about shoemakers' wives going barefoot? Sometimes the closer you are, the less aware you are.

Rugger Mom said...

Not offended at all. Glad we communicated. ;)