My Mom’s Refusal to Open a Beautiful Gift Teaches Us Some Things Are Better Left a Mystery

bookshelf gift
April Daniels Hussar

If you visit my mom's little cottage in Northern California, amongst the well-stocked bookshelves brimming with good reads and framed photos of loved ones, you might spy a small, beautifully wrapped present. A recent gift? Nope -- it's been there for at least a few years, still wrapped, ever unopened.

The existence of this wrapped gift drives my own daughter crazy. "Don't you want to open it?" she asks my mom on every visit. "Don't you wonder what's inside?"


"I think it might be soap," said my mom once. "It smells good!" But she still doesn't open it. She loves the way it looks, she says. The packaging is so pretty, it's a gift in itself. And it's fun to keep it wrapped. The mystery is better.

This little item speaks volumes about my mother, about who she is. A person with an appreciation for the potential, a person not weighted down by material longing, who understands that "stuff" is just stuff. Once you open the present, you have the thing, but you've lost some element of the gift -- the sweet anticipation, the pleasant tension of not knowing.

Of course, it's not a diamond ring in there. It's no gigantic sacrifice; in fact, it's not a sacrifice at all -- it's a quirky choice, rather. A choice that shows such a unique way of looking at the world. This little gift, that it still exists, years after receiving it, perfectly illustrates something to me about my mom, something inherent in her nature: an ability to look through the world with a fresh lens, to savor the "what if," to appreciate that journey and really, truly not worry about the destination.

I love that little gift; I love everything about it, about the story it tells. I love that my daughter sees it, and that it makes her wonder and think. And I love that it remains unopened. This way, the chord of potential is struck but never fades. It just keeps on reverberating, as long as the bow is tied. It's the thought, continuing to count, and count, and count.

Read More >