How to Be Wiser Than The Magi (giving the gift of a mind worm)

The holiday season is drawing nigh. Soon it will be time for the planning and the plotting to begin. We will drop hints, some subtle, some really not. We will make wish lists and wish fervently that Aunt J. will ask us about said list and not buy us that hideous porcelain thingummyjig that is the stuff of nightmares.  

What shall I get him? What would she love? What does he need? What will be under that tree? What did he get me? Where did he hide it (I’m just going to casually glance through the back of the pantry. No really, there is a perfectly innocent explanation for why I’m rummaging through this corner of the garage)?

I love giving gifts. I love ferreting out exactly what my giftee would love. I relish the moment when you just know you’ve got the perfect gift. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking about the perfect gift.

The best gift you can give someone you love is to find a way to worm yourself into their brain. Give them something to remember. Give them a memory that they can pull out and warm themselves by when life is cold and hard and dark. Give them something worth remembering when they are old and wrinkled and saggy and contemplating their own mortality. Make them feel that they truly lived. Give them a reason to miss you when you to dust return.

Mr. BITA and I have been trying to give each other mind worm gifts for some years now. Here are some examples:

  • I learned that Mr. BITA had some good memories of jet skis. For his birthday I found a place where you could rent a jet ski by the hour. We drove up to this beautiful lake and spent the day on and in the water, and exploring a nearby dam.
  • For one of my birthdays Mr. BITA took me to Vegas (my first time there). He also booked a Cirque Du Soleil show for us to see while we were there. It was magical.
  • One Christmas Mr. BITA’s gift to me was a long letter. It made me cry. It made me feel loved and understood. Having that letter is like having a talisman against sadness. When I feel blue all I have to do is reach for it.
  • I once bought Mr. BITA tickets to the Strange Loop conference (including flight and hotel). I also arranged for his best friend from college to attend the conference with him.
  • After the birth of Progeny BITA, Mr. BITA gifted me a bonus hour every week at a time of my choosing to just have me-time and do something for myself, anything that makes me happy.


What are the important properties of mind worm gifts?

  1. They show the recipient that you have been paying attention to them and what they want or need to make them happier. Giving a mind worm gift is like hiring a skywriter to scrawl ‘I CARE’ across the firmament, but more, you know, sensible.  
  2. The effect of a mind worm gift lasts a long, long time. Decades even.
  3. When you give a mind-worm gift, you are actually giving the holy trifecta of gifts: the gift of anticipation (Italy in 6 weeks!), the gift of experience (That tower really does lean!) and the gift of memory (I’m having the crappiest day at work. I’m going to close my eyes just for a moment and pretend I’m rocking gently in that gondola again. Then maybe I will respond calmly to this moronic email and the artery in my head won’t burst).
  4. As a bonus, quite often, but not always, a mind worm gift ends up being a gift for the giver as well (tickets for two, holidays for two).
  5. A mind worm gift allows you to learn. Sometimes you learn lofty things like Roman History, other times you learn that if you drink enough you spend far too much time staring at the fish at the Mandalay Bay aquarium and your phone has no memory left because it is inexplicably filled with blurry photos of unassuming fish.


I want to be clear that the BITAs are not against material gifts. We do give family and each other some actual physical stuff-bought-from-a-store every now and again (Ooh, boots! Yay!). Experience has taught us that those rarely end up being the best gifts, the gifts that stand out and sparkle in your memory. Now that we have Toddler BITA in the mix, mind worm gifts are even more important to us as a family.

The mind-worm gift typically requires the giver to invest more time and effort than the store-bought kind. It may or may not be cheaper, but it is typically characterized by a higher ROI. It will take creativity and research. And it will be worth it.

May we all sally forth this holiday season, bearing gifts far wiser than gold, frankincense and myrrh.

What mind-worm gifts have you given and received?


6 thoughts on “How to Be Wiser Than The Magi (giving the gift of a mind worm)”

  1. For our wedding, my sister gave us a nice photo album with lots of pictures of the family and us as kids in it. It was definitely one of the best gifts we got.

    I think I’ll have to adopt this and work towards finding something like that to give. Maggie at Northern Expenditure has something similar called experience based Christmas it’s a similar concept, just a bit different.

    I like the idea of more experience than piles of gifts. Like you said, they’ll be remembered way more than a new flashlight or puzzle or who knows what.

  2. I love the idea of giving experiences instead of tangible items. At my urging, my sisters and I began doing a sisters brunch every year for Christmas. No gifts, no kids. Just a catch up between us three girls. We pick a date a month ahead and plan around it. This year we are doing something a little different and have invited our mom to a Beatles cover band instead. She loves the Beatles and the concert happened to be on the same day as our brunch was scheduled. An early Christmas present for all of us! 🙂

    1. Everything about this is awesome. I wish my sister was local (she and I reside on different continents) – I would love to do a Christmas brunch with her – so jealous.

  3. I love the idea of experience based gifts over material gifts. At this point my wife and I have enough stuff and we want to continue creating memories. My wife and I are saving up so that one day we can travel to Iceland. My plan is to create a card with some of the spots we intend to view in Iceland 🙂

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