Dear Ann Cannon • I received a gift that was a surprise. After befriending a friend’s mom, we communicated here and there. My mom is not around, and I enjoy the friendship of older people in my life. She and I do not live close to each other. Recently, she passed away and her daughter, my friend, gave me something that belonged to her mom. I had never seen it before, so it does not hold any memories for me. It is not something that I enjoy or want to display. In fact, we are trying to get rid of big things and little things. You know how it is.
I could never just throw it away or donate it. How do I give it back to my friend’s daughter for her or her family to keep without hurting feelings? I know my friend wouldn’t be mad at me ever, but I don’t want to hurt her in any way.
— Tired of Knickknacks
Dear Tired • Oh, stuff. We Americans all have too much of it, right? Which is why books like Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” have become so popular.
OK. It seems to me that you have three options here.
1. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and thank the possession itself for attempting to remind you of your friend’s mother. (Which it doesn’t.) (But that was its intention.) Then donate the item without feeling any unnecessary guilt. I know you feel reluctant to do this, but the important thing here is the thought behind your friend’s gift — not the gift itself, right? At least give this idea some thought.
2. Keep the item in a closet and take it out when your friend comes to visit.
3. Do what you’re inclined to do, which is to return the item to your friend. Tell her you’re grateful for your friendship with her mother and you appreciate that she’s acknowledged the friendship with this gift. Tell your friend, however, that you are in the process of downsizing and, therefore, wonder if the item wouldn’t be better off with someone in the grandmother’s family? If, as you say, your friend won’t be angry, this seems like a reasonable way to proceed. If, however, you suspect your friend might be hurt after all, then seriously consider the first two options.
I hope this helps. Best of luck!
Meanwhile, dear Tribune readers, I’m wondering if you’re finding the contentious news cycle as exhausting and demoralizing as I am? If so, then I want to recommend a new book that may lift your spirits as much as it has mine.
“One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder” by the late Brian Doyle is a collection of essays that celebrate life in all its iterations. Remarkable for their kindness and intelligence, their humanity and humor, the essays are a thoughtful antidote for the cheap cynicism present in so much of the media we consume.
Take a look at this passage, for example: “You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning, echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.”
See what I mean?