I have an unusual habit of naming – and thus memorializing – lovely and meaningful gifts given to me, to honor and remember the gift-giver. Turns out, “memorializing” means: “To preserve the memory of; commemorate.” So actually, I’ve been misusing the term, as Ross — and all of my gift-givers – are most assuredly alive!
Six degrees During a lovely party celebrating Janet Odgis’ new design studio, I mentioned my memorializing habit while making small talk with one of her guests. This particular gift was a gorgeous salad bowl and tongs set, designed by Jonathan Adler — something I had always coveted, but would never have bought for myself. As is my habit, this became “The Ross Peyser Memorial Salad Bowl.” To my surprise, the stranger replied, “Wait. You know Ross Peyser?” Seems my daughter (who is half my age) is friendly with Ross, who is friends with the gentleman I had just met. My memorialization had serendipitously become a ticket to networking.
Tradition? Tradition! Perhaps my memorializing habit comes from the Jewish tradition of the “Honor Boards” and plaques that commemorate members who have given generously to the temple or synagogue’s building fund or as part of their family’s estate planning. Plaques are everywhere. Above the drinking fountain, the temple library entrance, on the back of each pew, or even in the gym. For example, my father gave a donation when our temple relocated from inside the city of Cincinnati to Amberley, its mostly Jewish suburb. And as a tribute to my father’s love of photography, a brass plaque was placed outside the new darkroom. Given the rise of digital photography, I would bet they’ve changed the darkroom into a digital lab – or a storage closet.
Work gifts We could always count on Liz, our CMO, to bring her marketing directors a little something from her world travels. One year, she gave us each a fragrant candle from Harrods; another year, it was some very cool wooden tableware from an African photo safari. (I know – more salad tongs!) Another favorite from my “memorial” gift collection: a beautiful set of dessert glasses, given to me by our freelance project manager following the launch of White & Case’s new website.
Memories light the corners of my mind But here’s the thing: should I be worried? Have I become that crazy lady in the movies who starts rambling on about random items she picks up… while the camera zooms in her grandchildren, who are rolling their eyes, as if to say, “Here she goes again.” Will I start chucking “memorial” glasses into the fireplace or begin using a salad bowl as a hat? I don’t think so, I think I’ll always cherish the memories those gifts elicit, of friends with whom I’ve spent so much time with over the years. Besides, they are lovely keepsakes in their own right.
But feel free to stop me if I start rambling on about wooden tongs from Africa …
Update (May 2021) While doing a bit of Spring Cleaning in my home office this weekend, I uncovered a plexiglass business card holder given to me by my friend and colleague, Judy Kalvin. I’ve mentioned Judy in a previous post as we were good friends while working at Addison. I pinged Judy last night, looking to confirm that it was she who bestowed this fabulous gift to me. “Yes! Guilty as charged! I think it was a vendor in Union Square who was making/selling these acrylic business card holders for all different professions. You still have it!?!”
This is the enduring value – that even the smallest gift can have such an impact. And, as I replied to Judy, this thing is “so of its time.”