By Megan Westberg | From the November-December 2020 issue of Strings magazine
Who among us will not be glad to see the back of 2020? Even if the pandemic hasn’t personally affected you and your loved ones, there is only one, inevitable conclusion to be drawn about this year: it wasn’t good. One can hear anxiety fairly humming in nearly every interaction, feel a new, crushing pressure in the making of formerly commonplace decisions. We scan dark, smoky skies for the shimmer of silver linings—more time with family; a slower pace of life; a new appreciation for the small (and the big) things. Given the state of things, when we find them, they feel all the more precious.
I know—this is not the chirpy tone I usually strike when introducing a gift guide. But in times like these, what would someone want for the holidays? What would they actually want? In years past, we’ve suggested all kinds of things, from budget-friendly gifts to the glitziest, the shiniest, the newest. This year, after some contemplation, I landed on the theme of comfort. Give the string players in your life—or yourself—something that will offer respite, a sense of being cared for. Be it cozy or quirky, a gift that inspires a moment’s blissful escape could well be the single thing that everyone on your list really wants this year. Think peace, think calm, think care. And I hope you get some (or all) of those things, too.
There’s more than warmth and softness to be found in a blanket: There’s something about being wrapped in one that feels so… inexplicably safe. Why that would be is anyone’s guess, but the gift of a good blanket in a string theme communicates that you understand her passion for both music and for being enveloped by an unaccountable sense of peace.
Thinking that’s not quite it? You’d rather it be more portable? More day-to-day? There is no shortage of string-themed clothing: shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, pajamas, scarves, jackets, socks, even masks. How about a violin-themed robe? The point here is that if you’d like to literally wrap your giftee in string-related comfort, there are ample opportunities to do so. Pick a pattern and imagine his or her grateful smile.
Music is such solace. Each of us has at least a handful of recordings to which we faithfully turn at the end of a bad day (bad year?). The music soothes, comforts, understands; its very familiarity is a balm. So perhaps in place of the ubiquitous gift card (I know, it would be so easy—but resist!), you could instead give a few of your most cherished comfort albums, perhaps with some explanation of what makes them so essential to you. If you’re unsure whether he will share your tastes, you may throw in that gift card on the side as a failsafe; he’ll still appreciate that you took the time to select something personally meaningful, just for him.
A book is the perfect escape—portable, budget-friendly, and the basis of something to discuss other than those things that necessitated the escape. And in many cases, sitting down to read a book involves a reassuring sense of ritual: making a cup of tea or mixing a nightcap, curling up somewhere comfortable and quiet to lose oneself in a story. From string-related fiction to memoirs to detailed discussions of the finer points of music making, there is plenty to tempt a string player. So spend some time poring over the options and present your giftee with a well-curated stack of books. Jot a thoughtful note on a title page so she’ll never forget it was you who carefully selected this book for her.
Odds are favorable that your giftee has spent more time at home in 2020 than he or she has done in many a recent year. This may have led to all kinds of discoveries. Perhaps that darkish corner, no impetus for pause before, has become just a little annoying. Perhaps that lovely hardwood floor now seems a bit chilly underfoot. It is, admittedly, tricky to select home décor for others, but if you’re a bold gift giver with a flair for interior design, you could brighten up that corner with a violin lamp, or lend those toes some luxury with a nice, soft rug. Add a lovely print for that bare spot on the wall and suddenly you’ve given the room new life. And your fun doesn’t have to stop there. There are string-related pillows, soap dispensers, light-switch wall plates. If you go too far, you might receive a chuckle in response, but there’s nothing more stress-relieving than a good laugh.
There is comfort in beauty, and so often we’ll skimp on “luxury items” for ourselves. But wouldn’t it feel good to have a beautiful, hand-carved music stand to gaze upon fondly? A stunning pair of earrings or cufflinks? Your string-playing friends and family would probably feel the same way. How about an exquisite silk bag for his or her instrument? It doesn’t have to be overly expensive to feel luxurious and meaningful. It just has to indicate you wanted to treat your giftee to something special, something he or she could probably live without, but that you hope lends a thrill of decadence to the holiday season.