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The Baby Gift I'll Never Forget

Photograph by Twenty20

Right after my first daughter was born, my sister-in-law brought me a roll of plastic bags—the type you get from the grocery store that usually hold apples or bundles of kale. She told me to carry a few around with me and use them for dirty diapers, and from that day on, I was never without a handful in my purse. They were a lifesaver in those first frantic months of new parenthood, and her kind gesture was something I always thought of whenever I used one of those simple, plastic bags.

They were, hands down, one of the best gifts I received as a new mom.

I continued to use them for everything, not just diapers but wet swimsuits, snacks to take to the park, empty juice boxes after the ride home ... for years. That roll of plastic bags is still in my cabinet and I still use them, although I no longer have dirty diapers to wrap up.

I showed it to my sister-in-law the last time she was over, and she told me that someone had given this same roll to her over 30 years ago when her first daughter was born, which makes them even more valuable. I’m hoping to pass them on to my daughters someday, should I be lucky enough to have grandchildren. It may be the closest thing we have to a family heirloom.

Sometimes the best gifts or gestures are not necessarily the most grand or the most expensive, but the simplest ones that no one thinks of and then become a cherished tradition. Often they fill a need that we didn’t know we had. And if we’re lucky they end up being so genius, we pass them on to someone else.

Natalie K. recalls receiving something that was a lifesaver as her children got older—and that would be appreciated by anyone who’s had to rush out in the middle of the night for change.

“Someone gave me a roll of ‘gold’ dollar coins to use as tooth fairy money,” she says. “They came in extremely handy, and I like to give that as a gift to parents now with a cute piggy bank.”

In the rush to find the most creative or unique gift, we often forget that what parents really need are the basics.

Another thing to consider: The most cherished gestures don't come wrapped up in a tidy bow.

“The best thing any friend did for me when my kid was a baby was show up with three huge trash bags filled with hand-me-downs from her daughter, who was a few years older,” remembers Donna S. “For one thing, this friend was a studio executive and had spent a small fortune on designer baby clothes that were barely worn before they were outgrown. It saved us a bundle as our kid grew from one size to the next—and she really was the best-dressed toddler in daycare.”

In the rush to find the most creative or unique gift, we often forget that what parents really need are the basics.

“This is a boring baby item that no one likes to give because it's not cute, at all,” says Mindi M. of the gift that has kept on giving for years. “With my first child I got some basic, plain, white, flannel waterproof pads that turned out to be the best item ever. Used under a newborn baby, they kept me from having to change the full crib sheets in the middle of the night. Under a potty training toddler, they again kept me from having to change the sheets, at 2 a.m. I cut them smaller and they became a very thin portable diaper pad, and also for a car seat on a long trip. Finally, they were used under a teen with her period. You name it, this super boring gift was the most useful item ever. Now I give them to all new parents because, honestly, no one else does.”

So, the next time you’re looking to do something special for a new parent, keep in mind that what they may cherish the most might not come from the fancy baby store or the hipster website. As in the case of one of my favorite memories, maybe just show up with something from the produce aisle.

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