A good friend and colleague of mine gives her clients thoughtful Christmas gifts each year. For some years, I was fortunate to be on her Christmas list and attended her Christmas breakfasts. Always at some stunning venue in a botanical garden somewhere, or quaint new hidden gem she has found, they were legendary.
About ten years ago, I received my invitation to attend her Christmas breakfast. Without checking my diary, I accepted. When the morning of the breakfast finally came around, I was up extra early to be there on time. So was everyone else. Everyone was cheerful and there was Christmas jingles in the air. People were chatting to one another and catching up, many being regulars at her fabulous events.
That year, at the end of the breakfast and once she had said ‘thank-you’ to the guests in attendance, she lead everyone to the patio outside to collect their Christmas gift. This year it was a small sapling Acacia tree, ready to be replanted. I was so excited about my little indigenous tree and couldn’t wait to find a spot in my small garden to sink its permanent roots.
Being indigenous to South Africa, the tree flourished without much care. Through irregular rainfall with droughts and water restrictions in summer, and our cold, dry Highveld winters with frost that destroys anything ‘not of African origin,’ the little acacia was soon standing its ground. The tree started flowering with small yellow clusters of blossoms in spring and summer. Then, in winter it would lose everything again, including its leaves, leaving behind a stark, scraggly, tree with white, flaky bark on its trunk, and branches adorned with vicious thorns, akin to most African acacia species.
Today, the tree is towering over my garden, taking centre stage. Over the years as the tree grew larger, bird feeders were introduced, and a bird bath beneath in the shade. Local birds started arriving for a quick and easy meal. Mostly, it was common sparrows and doves at first, but then we started seeing more exotic species flying in for a treat.
This year, the tree brought a new surprise. Two pairs of finches have decided to build their nests on the tips of the long, thin, thorny branches. The birds love how they sway in the breeze.
Over the years, what started out as a token of appreciation and thanks for the year that passed, has become so much more. What struck me about this thoughtful gift, is the reminder of what giving should be about. The gift has never stopped ‘giving’. It has served as a constant reminder of the great friendship we share, a symbol of her generosity, and how much she cares.