Friday, December 20, 2013

Here's Looking at You, Kid

One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was from the aunt nobody on one side of the family liked, the wife of my uncle, my father's brother. At the time there was comment that the gift was Not Appropriate for a nine-year-old. I loved it from the get-go. I felt older, smarter and accepted as a person in my own right (at least by this aunt).

What was the gift? A Revlon manicure set— 4 bottles of "stuff" (cuticle remover, base coat, pink nail polish and topcoat)— tools attached with elastic bands to the pink plasticized interior of the blue suede case— orange stick, emery boards, cuticle scissors, nail buffer— bottle of nail polish remover and the all-important booklet: How to Give Yourself a Manicure.

These were not "kiddie cosmetics"— make-believe items like the candy pills in the play doctor kits. They were not even the genuine but benign toiletries called "Little Lady". This was the real deal— Revlon! They advertised in my sister's "Seventeen" and my mother's "Ladies Home Journal"! I was one of them now.

I made a great ritual of doing my nails in my room, feeling all the while that I was engaging in a practice I was perhaps not yet entitled to. I soaked in warm sudsy water, using one of my mother's cut glass bowls. I accidentally lifted the finish off a corner of the nightstand ("Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase" covered that). And I kept at it till the carrying case turned shabby and most of the original pieces had been lost or used up.

I practically never saw that aunt except at Christmas. It wasn't like I could show off how much I loved her present, but I thought of her with every snip and buff. I also learned a lesson I would like to share with you if you have gifts to give daughters, nieces, granddaughters or the little girl down the street.

Think UP. Get them something that just might be "too old" for them. Pretty stationery and a ballpoint pen for a five-year-old just learning to write. Bookplates with her name imprinted and a hard bound copy of a classic. A bath sponge and bubble bath (the kind that comes in a champagne bottle— really). Genuine jewelry that has to be taken care of (as simple as a cultured pearl on a thin gold chain). Honor the woman she will become. Because while we are all still little girls, we always wanted to be grown-ups too.

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