Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Storing valuable objects where they're valued

Last week, I was honored at my college with what my husband calls a "sustained breathing" award.  I've been at my college for 25 years.  As a result, my provost stood up on stage and said laudatory things about me, and I got a valuable present.

In past years, 25-year veterans had gotten a clock.  (I am a tad wistful for that; I would have loved to get a clock.)  This year, we old-timers got crystal bowls.  To be more specific, we got Waterford crystal bowls, engraved with the name of our college. This is a pricy, momentous gift.


A gift like this is valuable in the sense that it cost my college a wad of dough to get it for me.  But the gift loses a bunch of value in being transferred to me.  In some homes, a bowl like this would grace the place, and make the place more beautiful.   But in my home, with a bunch of ADHD teenagers and a highly active 2-year old grandchild, caring for this bowl means finding protective storage space.  That is, the gift imposes a burden.  If I'd gotten a bowl we could toss in the dishwasher and/or the microwave, we'd have probably figured out a way to incorporate this into our lives, but Waterford crystal . . . not so much.

Ironically, the extra expense that my college incurred by engraving their name on the bowl makes the gift even less valuable, in the sense of being harder to sell -- assuming that I wanted to sell it, which actually, I don't.  I love the place I work, and I'm glad for this token of appreciation that they've given me.  I just want to make sure that the gift can be used in a way it's appreciated.  I want to place this valuable item in a place where it's valued.

So, huzzah for elegant friends. At the reception that followed the Sustained Breathing Acknowledgment Ceremony, I huddled up with some of my college employee buddies.  Some of my buddies are actually pretty classy people, and bowl that was such a storage-encumbrance to me wowed some of them.

And so I'm keeping my bowl --- permanently --- at the home of C, a childless and tasteful person I happen to like having lunch with occasionally.  C and her wife can store the bowl out in plain view, where it can be appreciated without the danger of tennis balls or wrestle-mania endangering it.  I told her that whenever she looks at the bowl, she can think of me.

The Waterford Crystal Bowl
on C's dining room table. Lovely.

This is why it's so danged hard to buy gifts for people, right?  I grew up with Waterford crystal at my parent's home; we used it for special occasions, and I have super-fond memories of carrying it up from its safe place in the basement, unwrapping the goblets from their protective tissue in their carefully divided cardboard boxes.  I loved the after-dinner ritual of hand-washing the glasses in soapy water, rinsing them carefully and setting them on soft towels to dry, and then repackaging them in their tissue-paper-and-boxes for storage again.  I loved these glasses so much, that at my first wedding, I asked for Waterford goblets, in the same pattern as my parents'.

But a dozen years later, I gave the crystal away.   The fact that something is valuable doesn't mean that it's valuable to me.  And in my own version of my own adult life, these goblets were either in storage or at risk of breakage, but they were never part of an elegant and appreciated ritual in my new, grown-up life.  It was better to hand them along to my sister, who could use them at her home.

So this gift that I got from my employer, it actually made me feel a bit guilty.  Like, I ought to be the kind of person who could appreciate this crystal bowl, but instead I'm just too crass for it.  I know that's not what they wanted to say -- that instead they were saying that a pricey gift like this symbolizes the value of the recipient of the gift.

So that's why I'm "keeping" the bowl by gifting it to another person's home.  The college I love, it appreciates me enough that it gives me way more than I could ever want or need, enough that I enjoy it best when I share with others.

But maybe I'll keep my eyes open this yard sale season for a nice clock, just because.


  1. I keep stuff like that in my office. So a clock would be much preferred since I don't supply candy to people.

    1. Yeah, by now I'm old enough that I've got a bunch of "stuff like this" in my office, often with my names on them. Mostly framed certificate/awards, but a few arty objects, of course a bunch o' mugs, and even a trophy (!?). I think my favorite one of these is a lantern.

  2. i literally have the same exact bowl and I also have a 2 year old son. it's in the box it came in, on a high shelf in a closed cabinet where it is not enjoyed, but not damaged. I will regift to my son when he marries so he can cherish something that I have not been able to thanks to him. here's to a circle of life! (kidding about regifting to him-but it'd be funny!)

    1. Oh, my gosh, that's so funny. I did actually regift a different, previously-high-shelf-boxed crystal bowl to my daughter when she got her own home . . . she's child-free and likely to be so for a few more years, at the least.

  3. I related your tale to colleagues at our recent end-of-year picnic (really a nice outdoor dinner with staff/fac recognition). Lots of fancy bowls given out. My 5 year is next year, so I get a keychain with my initials on it. Oh, must remember to remind the HR lady what my initials really are -- so many people mess up my name because I have two middle names. I'd like my "sustained breathing" award to at least be accurate!