Recently I hosted my first ever baby shower, for my dear friend Gab. I’d never even attended a baby shower before, nor been offered one for any of my pregnancies. We Jewish people rarely do baby showers. We’re far too anxious and superstitious to celebrate something before it’s happened.
And so I wasn’t quite sure how a shower worked. Is there food? What does one do? Do the menfolk come along? Is there a gift registry? What do we buy?
I sought advice from some friends and figured out most of the answers. One eats, apparently. Afternoon tea-type food. Scones and cupcakes and fruit platters and little sandwiches cut into strips. One plays games; nothing physical, maybe a guessing game about the mother and some dolling out of unwanted advice. And no, the menfolk are usually not invited.
As for the gifts? Well, that was tricky.
Past and present
Some guests were in favour of a registry, and I did appreciate the advantages. Gab could choose what she needed for her unborn child, everyone would know their present was useful and appreciated, and all would be spared the agony of having to search for that ‘special’ present.
Alternatively, we reasoned, the guests could all pitch in for one large gift – a pram, perhaps, or a cot. Gab would have something really significant she needed for the bub, and everyone could just contribute money and be done with it.
Of course, the whole thing could be simplified even further if we all just gave her cash. Each guest could throw some money into an envelope, and Gab could buy whatever she wanted.
I thought about the options for a while, and quickly discarded the idea of giving cash. It just seemed so joyless, so devoid of thought or care.
The single group present was a possibility, but far too impersonal and boring. And even a gift registry screamed ‘practical’ instead of ‘love’. Yes, it would be convenient – but who said celebrations should be convenient?
And so, Gab and I decided on Free Range Gifting. Yes, guests could buy Gab whatever they wanted to buy, and she would accept them with pleasure because they were chosen with love.
The day arrived, and the shower went beautifully, despite my complete lack of experience, and the slightly misshapen cake. The games were fun, the champagne flowed, and the conversation flowed too.
But for me, the present opening was the absolute highlight. Gab’s face when she opened each gift was a joy to behold. Her delight at the teeny outfits! Her wonder at the picture books! Her bemusement at the lotions and creams!
And when my daughters handed over the flat teddy that they had chosen for the baby – a replica of the bear each of them had been gifted – their excitement was palpable. Because of course, the wonder of gifts isn’t just in the receiving. They are also in the choosing and giving.
No registry gift or cash could offer that pleasure. To me, it’s what gift giving is all about.