By what right do I ask for your attention?    Only in that as major holidays draw nigh, I will be part of many of your lives, often unwelcome.

Although I can adapt to any circumstance, over-all, I have three guises: cash, check or present.

Given as cash or written as a check, where more than one provider must decide, my size can tend to generate debate, polite initially, then escalating towards flat-out rancor. 

Recriminations flare, past snubs recollected, until combatants reach some compromise, or one of them withdraws, numbed by exhaustion.

If given as a gift, I prove to be equally problematic; what to buy?  More to the point, what must the byer spend in order to avoid appearing stingy, poor, or ostentatious.  Where is the middle ground between the two; how does one reach it?

Often, once bought, I soon become re- housed, transferred into a box or bag which bears the label of an upscale shop, or elegant boutique, with which I never had the least connection.

As to “re-gifting”, what a euphemism for passing on some dross one can’t abide! 

This fib, of course, requires thought and care, with a strong memory for origin.  One shrinks to think a relative might say, “That looks amazingly like something I recall having bought around a year ago-yes, last December.” 

I often think, while waiting in a purse, a wallet, or proffered with a handshake or a hug, the strength I would possess, could I but speak about my struggle to come into being.

At other times, I flow-an undercurrent, barely beneath the joviality, the brittle ambiance of celebration. 

In truth, I often would be of more worth if offered in the form of time.  A lunch or coffee with a relative who slowly has succumbed to isolation, due to age, ill health, and loss of those most cherished. 

Still, givers often find this sacrifice too difficult in that it will entail viewing of photos, shadowy and blurred, while listening to reminiscences of past enchantments. 

This tempts potential listeners to wait, postpone this visit to the coming year-then after that, the next, and then the next one.

Yet, somewhat of a global bugaboo, high on the roster of life’s aggravations, I have no fear as to longevity.  The need to give and to be given to is interwoven into human life. 

Empires crumble, dynasties collapse, philosophies lose credibility, artists once lauded, can become despised. 

Yet, I remain, due to my role as sponge, to soak away, to swallow up the gunge, the sludge of grudges fuelled throughout long years, decades even. 

As long as, by existing, I maintain amenities, ease animosities, bespeak a tenderness not often voiced, I shall continue. 

Colleen Swan is a counsellor in the UK with a background in literature. You can learn more about her at