Her Bad Mother

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Gift of the Magi

In The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry tells the story of Della and James, a cash-poor young couple who, unbeknownst to each other, give up their most prized possessions – she, her lustrous hair; he, his treasured gold watch – so that each might afford to buy the other an appropriately wonderful Christmas gift. The story teeters on the razor-thin edge that divides tragedy and comedy: at its end, each discovers that the other has sacrificed the very thing that each hard-won gift was intended to adorn – the bejeweled combs cannot grace Della's shorn hair; the platinum fob will never hold James' pawned watch. The gifts are, for their giving, rendered useless. ‘Foolish children,’ says O. Henry, ‘who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.’

Most unwise, we are told, are these givers of these useless gifts, made useless by having been given unwisely. Most unwise, especially, when considered against the Magi, the wise men, who originated the practice of Christmas gift-giving when they brought gifts to the baby in the manger, gifts that were without a doubt, according to O. Henry, wisely chosen and wisely acquired: gifts with utility, with exchange-value; gifts that could be exchanged if duplicated or found to be useless. Why, then, he asks us rhetorically, does he bother with a story of two foolish children, whose gift-giving was unwise?

He bothers with the story, O. Henry says, because these two gift-givers, so apparently foolhardy in their giving, were in fact the wisest of gift-givers. Not – on my reading of the story – simply because they sacrificed to give, but because they sought, at any cost, to give gifts of the heart. They were directed, in their gift-giving, solely by love – not by utility or exchange value or convenience or any of the conventionally ‘wise’ criteria that are applied to the art and science of gift-giving. They sought to give that which would most touch the heart of their beloved; they gave from the heart, to the heart.

The gifts that I have been witness to this past week - the gifts to my nephew, which were and are in fact and effect gifts to me - have been wise gifts by any criteria. These have been practical gifts – you have, those of you who contrived and executed the auction and the letter drive and those of you who spread the word and participated, given gifts of eminent practicality and utility. The money raised by the auction* will help the cause of furthering research into the disease that will take my nephew, research that will, one day, save the lives of little boys – if not in time to save my nephew’s life, then in time to save some other beloved nephew, son, grandson, friend. There is no more practical gift, no more useful gift – no gift more immune to the vagaries of exchange-value, to the risks of duplication – than the gift that helps to save a life, any life.

But there’s more to these gifts than their practicality and utility. These gifts – the gifts of time and money and energy and word that went into the auction and the letter-drive – have been the wisest gifts, and you the wisest gift-givers, for the fullness of heart in these gifts, for their embeddedness in heart, for the fact that they demonstrate so completely the power of heart and love and for the fact that they simply demonstrate that there is so much heart and love and goodness out there. That the world holds so many Magi.

I don’t know quite how else to put this, to put my feelings, my gratitude, the burstingness of my heart, into words other than to say this: I have never, ever, been given such gifts. Yes, of course, I have been blessed with the gifts, the heaven-sent gifts, of life, love, child, family, friends. These are immeasurably precious, of course. But never have I received such an overwhelmingly generous gift, such a grand gift, as the unexpected orchestration of this most amazing gesture, this series of gestures, this outpouring of love for my nephew on my behalf. It has left me speechless, wordless, astounded. It has, in some moments, left me in puddles – great, sopping puddles – of tears. Happy tears, grateful tears.

Love is not a gift that you can use, in any conventional sense. It is not a gift that has monetary value or exchange value or use-value in any strict sense, capitalist or Marxist or Maussian or otherwise. Love is functionally useless, effectually valueless, as a gift. But it is the greatest gift. The wisest gift.

This week, you've given it to me in spades. You are the Magi.

click image (me make button!)

(take button! take! take! e-mail me for code)

This is the least that I could do, by way of thanks, for now. It's not combs for your hair, or platinum fobs for your gold watches, and I didn't sell any prized possessions to acquire it. It's just a little linkage. Which is to say, it's you, wrapped up nice and given back to you. Visit, and enjoy - this is your love, all in one place.

(It's wonderful.)

*Over $3000 dollars raised by the auction! $3000+ dollars to go to MD Canada in Tanner's name. THANK YOU.


Please let me know if I missed your post about the auction, or if I failed to notice that you posted an auction button, or if I did notice and just plum forgot. If you participated in the auction by bidding/raffling/telling your friends/wishing on a star, or if you helped your children to write letters (which you can still do - there's no deadline for this most wonderful project), and would like to be linked up on the Official Magi List, drop me a comment or a line. And if you'd like your own button (my first ever attempt at button-making!), let me know and I'll send it to you.


Her Bad Mother got tidal waves of love and a Dad Gone Mad t-shirt and all WonderBaby got was this stupid orange.



Blogger metro mama said...

You're welcome.

Hey, you have a tree! Have WB climbed it yet?

10:10 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

I'm so glad to be a part of all of this. You gave us an amazing opportunity. Thank YOU for that.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We should be thanking you, because you gave us the opportunity to appreciate what we have and to think of others instead of ourselves.

This is the meaning of Christmas and I'm so honored to have been a part of it.

Thank you for your inspiration. We love you.

With love,

11:29 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Your mama always shares the love, WonderBaby. Enjoy the orange.

11:33 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Go read my favourite christmas book, Th Christmas Orange by Don Gilmore (sp?) and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. That orange wil look, well, perfect.

And? It's nice that we could give something to someone who has given so much love to the blogger community. You see how we love you back? Mwah!

11:45 PM  
Blogger Andi said...

Maybe you and I can figure out a suitable something for WonderBaby... I think that there may be another puppet around here somewhere that Sprout hasn't met and named "Tony"... She seems to believe that if she names them, they're hers and I wouldn't dream of contradicting her.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are the lucky ones to be able to share your life with you. In good times and bad.

We are lucky to have you and your family touch our hearts because you all have made US better people...just for getting a glimpse into your life.

Thank you.

I send you and your family all my best this season and throughout the years to come.

With love always,

7:33 AM  
Blogger moplans said...

Wonderbaby looks pretty happy about the orange (and pretty cute in her pjs.)
I'm so happy the auction was such a success and that a great cause was supported. Hats off to the organisers.
I feel it was such a gift to me to be able to take part in something so meaningful this holiday season.

7:39 AM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

No, thank you for reminding us what the holiday season is truly all about: being there for others and giving from the heart.

As for WonderBaby, MF will happily wrestle her for that orange. He's loving the little winter oranges right now - all the varieties! ;-)

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the button. It will go on my blog with pride. I was, and still am, honoured to have been a part of such an amazing endeavour, and I wish you and your family nothing but love and happiness this holiday. xoxo

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or maybe the button isn't supposed to go on our blogs? Duh...it's early and I'm really tired and still somewhat sick and caffiene-withdrawn. My apologies. LOL.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Beck said...

It was such a beautiful project, wasn't it? I hope that much good can come from all of the money that was raised.
And my baby LOVES oranges. LOVES. She loves to walk over to the bowl of oranges and take one big bite out of every orange, peel and all.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The blogosphere is such an awesome place. And the giving of the gift is the fun part.

10:14 AM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

The giver should be thankful. What a great whackload of cash. It was an honour to be part of it.

And don't worry WB, you will be getting a rocking CD and one to send to Tanner later this week!

PS, I would love a button...then I can spend the better part of my holidays trying to figure out how to put it on my blog.

10:46 AM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Is the button for sharing? because I love it! I'm glad you feel the tidal waves of love because nothing feels better this time of year. WB looks so sweet sigh.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Perstephone said...

Every time I come to visit you, my eyes well up with tears. I don't comment often, but I wanted to tell you that you have reached out and made another human being sitting at a computer somewhere else feel and care and want to help in any way she can. Your love is contagious and that is what this season is about and I truly wish your family good fortune.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Take the button! Take! Take! I've put the code up in the post.

Let me know if I've mucked it up somehow. Button code virgin!

12:48 PM  
Blogger CPA Mom said...

I just wish I could have done more. xoxoxo

12:56 PM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

Aww,shucks ma'am. Here you are pouring out such gratitude to us, and it's us who should be thanking you for sharing something so extremely intimate and important to you and your family...

I'm gonna try scamming the button, so that I, like Mamatulip and so many others can post it with pride.

And Tanner's letters are in the post as of today. Whoohoo!

By the way, how's Wonderbaby doing with the tree? Hopefully better than Nixon, the World's Greatest Dog. Ever. Little poop keeps eating my ornaments...

1:07 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

But she likes the orange. ;)

Great post as usual....you made me cry. But I'm so glad the auction went well.

Button code virgin...LOL...I want the button....I'll have to find someone to put it up though.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

She DOES like the orange. She lurves oranges. But she'd have rather had that i-Pod nano, I think...

2:04 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...


your gratitude spills over the monitor and down the screen and warms my toes.

this was terrific. we should do it again, and again, and again.

2:10 PM  
Blogger j.sterling said...

you are welcome. :) and i heart you.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

The image of the Magi (and the button that represents it) is really beautiful. I've just caught up with all of the areas of challenge and fear and sadness surrounding your life right now, and your ability to be genuinely grateful throughout this process is an inspiration.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

youre awesome girl ... honestly, you are an inspiration and you write beautifuly *hugs*

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on such a successful fundraiser. I'm so delighted for Tanner's sake.

4:28 PM  
Blogger ms blue said...

I'm so proud of those that made this happen and for so many people participating. It's a true honor to be a part of Her Bad Auction. I love the story of The Gift of the Magi.

The pictures of your sweet orange girl in her red jammies are a treat.

5:29 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

Ooh. I meant to ask for the button code...I don't see it here.


5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$3000! That's so impressive! I'm thrilled that I was able to pitch in and next month, Mother Bumper is going to have a new blog 'do!

Yay to all that helped and a big, big hug for Tanner!!!

7:54 PM  
Blogger Ben and Bennie said...

I'm looking at this keyboard and trying to figure out what the hell I should type. First and foremost please get in touch with me about the next auction. I'll paint a specific piece just for you wonderful folks.

Next I gotta hand kudos to Redneck Mommy for being a great friend and pointing me here. It was late in the auction but I felt the incredible need to hook up with you guys.

Me and Ben send the Merriest of Christmases to you and your family!

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do know how much I love you, right?

Making you and your family happy makes me happy.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

What a beautiful post. I read that story and also saw it performed as a play.

Not only did I get to help spread the word about the auction/raffle, but I also won something! What would the Magi say?! Does that make me selfish?

So glad to hear these efforts helped raise $3,000. Wow!

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me about The Gift of the Magi. I had heard it is a child, but since forgotten it. It is a great lesson for us, even today!

Addicted to Doll Houses

7:25 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

It wasn't even a question of "if" to be involved in this. It was "how". I thank you for the friendship, support and love you've shared with all of us and for the chance to be part of this great thing. My blog will wear the Magi button with pride.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$3,000, How fabulous. I hope your sister will share some of the letters when they come in. I would love to see what people wrote.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Damsel, the Magi would say that receiving can be as honourable as giving, especially when receiving is part of such a wonderful, heart-rooted circle of exchange.

10:36 AM  

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