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November 24, 1995 - Image 146

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-11-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

g 8
[6

MILLER

FRIENDSHIP page G67

CratiVe

Holibmi Gift lbw

VAN GOGH® TRAVEL SET

VAN GOGH®
FINE QUALITY WATERCOLORS

Blank Greeting Cards

HOLIDAY SUPER SAVINGS

(Decorate your own)
$349

From Millers Artist Supplies Co.

Pkg.

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(810) 489-8070

The
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A
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To

VALID AT BOTH LOCATIONS

0
0_

FERNDALE

279 W. 9 Mile Rd. 1"
"8
(810) 414-7070 6:

I

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40% 0 FF!

ANY PURCHASE

I

With Coupon Only

Excludes Sale Items
& Framing

Live The Major League Dream

• BRIO • Safari
• Breyer Gund
Playmobil • Tomy
• Thomas Tank
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• Geo Safari
Wood Board Games,
3D & Other Puzzles

The Original Tiger Fantasy Camp

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},

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in this ritual became clear: ex-
treme hesitation initially, fol-
lowed by a little dance of "oh, no,
you shouldn't, I don't deserve
this," and finally, acceptance.
More thank-yous followed as
the bearer departed, and contin-
ued the next time we met. Which
is when I would reciprocate with
a present of the same value, con-
tinuing the chain.
I began noticing small items
usually came in multiples of
three, five or seven, all good-luck
numbers. Nine is bad because it
is a homonym for "suffering," and
four is even worse, meaning
"death." So although a four-mem-
ber family is the national aver-
age, shops always sell cutlery and
chinaware in sets of five. The
tyranny of five extends to food as
well; I had to count before putting
together a basket of muffins for
a friend.
Sometimes, people would de-
cline their status as gift-givers,
simply saying, "This is from my
mother." My English pupils in
particular liked to bring gifts from
"Mother," some of them carrying
a gift on every single visit.
I pitied these women, always
cooking, shopping and wrapping
for their mature children. In the
end, I concluded it was an act of
kindness to offer something from
someone once-removed; it seemed
to imply I was not bound to reci-
procate. But I couldn't just take.
I began rattling through my
kitchen and the nearby shopping
towns for ideas.
In my Japanese pocket calen-
dar there was a suspicious-look-
ing section titled "Gifts" in which
I deduced all presento moves
should be charted. I began to fill
out this gift diary, and wondered
if it would be all right to recycle
some gifts not exactly to my taste,
such as the box of extra-fancy
sweet bean cakes. But the ques-
tion arose — would anybody's
mother be hurt?
These days, the presents that
never quite found a home on my
coffee table or kitchen shelves rest
in a massive tea crate I've covered
with a cheerful Japanese cotton
fabric. Nestled in sweet-smelling
layers are gifts as well as diago-
nally folded pieces of wrapping
paper, filmy ribbons and mes-
sages of friendship inscribed on
tiny paper fans.
I look at them a couple of times
a year and, feeling misty, put
them back. I realize I've become
a pack rat, the antithesis of a
good Japanese okusan. But I
can't bear the idea of discarding
these wrappings: these memories
of wars fought with paper and
scissors and stickers and, always,
the best intentions. ❑

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