Great Care in Choosing Gifts for Children

Great Care in Choosing Gifts for Children

Dona Lucilia took care of the affairs of the house, giving them her characteristic note of kindness and delicacy of soul.

For example, when she was preparing Christmas presents for her two children, the toys she bought were usually from the best stores of their kind to be found in Sao Paulo. Until we reached a certain age, Mother used to ask our housekeeper, Fräulein Mathilde, to take us to these stores and make us choose our favorite toys, telling us at the time: “Now pray to St. Nicholas, and ask him to bring you these gifts.”

Of course, being the children we were, we believed in that affectionate arrangement with St. Nicholas, and we would go to the toy store happy and anxious, hoping that St. Nicholas would favor us. Our joy was complete on Christmas day when we saw how we had been taken care of…

But besides these gifts, Mama was happy to make other toys for us, especially for my sister, because it is easier to make something that pleases a girl. I remember, for example, seeing her working on an ornament for a bedside lamp that was a kind of garland of female figures holding hands, as if there were several girls dancing to music around a fountain for instance.

These silhouettes were inspired by engravings that Mom had collected from Brazilian magazines or from French costumes. After cutting and gluing, she painted them with glitter, adding gold reliefs and other adornments. Finally, she decorated the lamp and gave it to her daughter. It had taken time and effort, sometimes late into the night, but the perfection and care with which Mother had given herself to the task was a wonder. But, in my view, the best of this perfection lay in the fact that, over time, the figures lost grip on the lamp, detached and fell, and the object became ugly. Dona Lucilia then discarded everything: “It is over, there is no beauty, and perfection now consists in thinking of something else. This is in the past. Let’s think about the future.”

Always the Best Possible

That is to say, from the most tender and affectionate to the most firm and resolute, Mother tried to do everything in the best way possible. Another example is the way she went about animating family life. We lived in the house of my grandmother, her mother and the matriarch of the Ribeiro dos Santos, in a place especially reserved for us. But when it came to a very large house, it was natural for Mother to help Grandma in the household, supervising the servants, maintaining the pantry, checking the accounts and things of the sort.

Moreover, with Fraulein’s help, she sewed and made certain pieces of clothing for us, not because she felt compelled, but because she liked and wished, out of affection, that we have things made by her. And rightly so: it’s one thing for a son to wear a tie bought at the store, but it is quite another to wear one cut out with affection by his mother. And all carried out with such perfection that we thought: “In this circumstance it was not possible to do anything better than she did.”

Be You therefore Perfect as God is Perfect

This longing for perfection was so characteristic of my mother that I, accustomed to giving her nicknames – always respectful and affectionate names – for some time I called her Lady Perfection, that is, Lady, Madame or Dona Perfection. And when I referred to her by those affectionate nicknames, she showed great contentment. In the face of this, my father, a man of very good temperament, would looked at her and say, mimicking the Portuguese accent:

– Do not melt. . .

Wanting to observe, with this wit, that she was very happy with my pleasures. Mother would then reply with a serious physiognomy, I would say other kind words, and with this amiable treatment our time together would end.

Plinio Correa de Oliveira – Excerpt from a talk on 9/9/1994


*Unofficial translation

Parenting through the Revolution: Affection, Detachment and a Clear line of Right and Wrong

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