October 20, 2004
Late Birthday Gifts.
Two weeks ago, I received the mostest awesomest birthday gifts someone who loves Thoreau can receive: his complete journals. Volumes i-vii and volumes viii-xiv. All of them. Half is from my wife, the other from my parents. The photo is terrible, I know. I do receive unusual gifts sometimes from my parents, but it's always what I want, so I suppose it's me who is unusual. While most people probably get either beer or Advil or a bible on their 21st birthdays, I received the annotated edition of Walden, purchased at Walden Pond in April 2000, from my parents. I remember being in "Advanced Poetry Workshop" as an undergraduate, and having to read some John Donne. Knowing this, I requested and received this gorgeous edition of Donne's complete poems. (Geez, now I sound like some spoiled brat.) My professor asked me where I got it, and I told her that my parents gave it to me as a Christmas gift. She thought it was the weirdest thing in the world, though to be fair, she thought the same of me. (Unfairly.) The best gifts are those strange things you want but don't want to spend money on yourself or think you don't deserve. I've given people engraved Space Pens, Moleskines, expensive or antique books, French presses, fancy pencils, backpacks -- all things people I care about were coveting but did not buy for themselves for one reason or another. I've received an autographed copy of Doctorow's ordered-out-of-print-book Big as Life, Thoreau and Poe volumes, a fountain pen, The Boy Scout Fieldbook, watches, journals and Canadian beer in liter cans. Those unusual sundries are certainly the best gifts to give -- and the best gifts to receive, though which is better is another matter entirely.