Assuring a happy return of a valued gift

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: When I was in my 20s, I was in a loving and devoted relationship with a woman for five years. After several bad episodes, she ended it. Four decades later, I still value the quality of the affection we shared and the lessons I learned. That relationship has shaped much of the way I choose to live today. While I truly have no lingering desire for her, I am deeply appreciative of her influence. We have gone our separate and successfully married ways. I am a thousand miles away and completely "over her." We have not communicated in all this time. During our relationship, she knit me a beautiful sweater, which took her many hours of effort. I have kept it in excellent condition. I have a desire to return it to her with no messages attached, so she might enjoy it or give it away. I want no response for this gesture. For me, this is just to say an (unspoken) thanks for all that she gave me all those years ago. Is this unwise? Could this look like an attempt at a rapprochement, or would this gesture anger her?

--Grateful for the Gifts

DEAR GRATEFUL: If you received a package containing a (possibly forgotten) gift you had given to someone more than 40 years ago, with no message attached, you would probably go a little bit bonkers trying to attach meaning to it. Is it your intent to drive this woman crazy? Your gesture could come off as weirdly mysterious, rapprochement-like or even hostile.

Why not be more straightforward, not to prompt an answer but to make your intention very clear? Like this: "Dear Chelsea, I hope you remember this sweater. As you can see, I've taken good care of it. Perhaps you have someone in your life who likes vintage things to whom you could give this handmade gift from your (and my) youth. I've enclosed a photo of my family; that's my spouse, Diana, our kids and our dog, Tippy. I hope your life is as happy as mine is and wish you all the best."