Growing up, there was an unspoken rule in my household that said: On your birthday, you are only allowed to open and enjoy half of the gifts received, while the rest must be put aside.
The remaining ones would be for future use (25%) and for regifting on other people’s birthdays (25%).
And it’s not just my parents who did it.
In 1988, I attended the birthday of my friend M.S. where I witnessed him receiving at least three Monopoly sets. Monopoly is the “I have no interest in you or your kid” gift any parent could’ve bought back then. And in case anyone thought there was even the most minimal interest in gifting, the Monopoly sets weren’t even the original American ones. They were some knock-off Arabic versions.
A few months later, it was my birthday. Between M.S.’s birthday and mine, I had attended other birthdays and seen other kids receive the cursed board game as a gift. When it was my turn to celebrate, M.S. came to my party carrying a long, flat giftwrapped birthday present. I knew in my gut exactly what it was. I don’t blame him. Back then it was the parents that did all the buying.
Anyway, I ended up with two different Arabic-version Monopoly sets that day. I naturally delegated both of them to the Future/Regifting Pile.
But not before I marked each of them with my initials. Using a very thin black felt-tip pen, I wrote R.S. at the end of the copyright text on the back of the Monopoly set box, very discreetly. No one would ever notice them if they didn’t know where to look.
In the five years that ensued, I attended many birthdays, during which Monopoly sets continued to be unhappily unwrapped by Birthday Boys. And then, in 1993, my little experiment finally came to fruition.
On my 14th birthday, my other friend A.A. arrived carrying the highly expected and severely undesirable long flat rectangle in balloon-stencil giftwrapping. I knew this was the moment of truth. In one fell swoop, I unwrapped the gift, made a happy Thank You™ face, and flipped it around to look at the back (like people do when trying to pretend them loved the gift).
There they were, sure as day, the initials of my name, standing in full salute.
Over the period of five years, the Monopoly box had gone from birthday party to another; wrapped and unwrapped by disappointed children. The box was rejected to the Regifting Pile of every recipient until (because nobody’s parents gives a f***) it was regifted back to me.
This time, I didn’t put it away. This time I held onto it.
This one’s been places and now has a story to tell.