Gift-Givers That Keep on Giving

There's one suburban ritual the recession hasn't put a dent in

A few days before Easter, I met my friend Dasha at the new Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting. As I drove over, I had a sudden horrible thought — she wouldn’t have brought a gift, would she?

Dasha is one of the most incredible gift-givers anywhere on the Main Line, in fact, on the Eastern Seaboard. She brings gifts for the dog, my stepsons, my husband, and anyone else who might be at our house — my dad and stepmother, the kids’ friends, our babysitter. She’s probably given everyone in Philadelphia a gift, honestly, at one point or another. She’s terrifically sweet that way. But this was just a casual, last-minute coffee, and I was planning to go to her house on Easter, when I would definitely bring flowers and a bottle of wine or a cake. So I was pretty safe, I thought. [SIGNUP]

Two minutes later, I found Dasha near the quinoa, wheeling a cart loaded with vitamins, sushi, and coconut water, and she immediately handed me a pink bag with faux fur trim filled with chocolates, L’Occitane moisturizer, a pretty candle, and Peeps and jelly beans for our kids.

“It’s your Easter basket!” she said, her beautiful face lighting up happily. I was simultaneously touched by her thoughtfulness and filled with self-doubt at my lack of gift: Is it now customary to bring a present when you meet a friend for coffee?

I was brought up in the tradition that you always bring a gift when you go to someone’s house for dinner or cocktails; this could be wine, a bunch of flowers, or chocolates, or a decadent-looking cake. Anything festive and fun seemed to work, really, until a few years ago when I realized: Wine or flowers just won’t do it anymore.

This dawned on me when I brought a bunch of Whole Foods roses to a friend’s party, and another guest right behind me arrived with a gorgeous arrangement from Evantine. This was so much more elegant than my flowers that I hid the roses in my friend’s laundry room and left early.

When John and I had a party at our house a couple of years ago, we were floored by the beautiful gifts people brought from Home Grown in Haverford, and Williams Sonoma, and Yves Delorme. One friend who was out of town for the party actually sent over some lovely salad servers because she couldn’t come. There were coffee-table books, linen napkins, gourmet sets of cocoa, candles from Paris. The gifts were beyond generous, and clearly, I needed to step up our gift giving immediately. I’ve been working on this, but still, I’m pretty sure that I’m lagging behind very badly.

I had lunch with my best friends Adam and Stephen last week, who are gift givers on a par with Dasha. They shop all year for Christmas, going to the MoMA gift store and EAT gifts in New York, finding fantastic jewelry, gadgets and books. This time, they arrived with a small package wrapped in red, a belated Valentine’s gift, which turned out to be a DVD of a movie starring my favorite actor Daniel Craig. I took one look at the picture of the gorgeous Mr. Craig on the CD cover and decided: Truly, a Daniel Craig DVD is the gift that keeps on giving.

AMY KORMAN is a Philly Mag senior writer.