Grateful for the Gift
We didn't know she had saved them. Homemade Mother's Day cards, poems celebrating the first day of spring, letters to Santa. My mother had saved every card, every drawing my sister and I had given her. She even pressed and dried our occasional gifts of wildflowers. She had kept everything. Our gifts were bound in red lace in the bottom drawer, next to her neatly folded sweaters.
A wonderful discovery
We found them a few weeks after my dad died. (My mother had died ten years earlier.) We were cleaning our childhood home and had chosen to start in my parents' bedroom. He'd kept their bedroom the same all these years, never touching any of her belongings. Half-empty perfume bottles on her dresser, Sunday "church clothes" in her closet -- a life frozen in time.
We sat on the bedroom floor, untied the red lace, and recalled my mom's responses to each of these gifts. I was 30, married, and the father of a two-year-old child. My sister was 20. But in that moment, we were again Thelma's little kids.
She had always shown delight reading each misspelled birthday card. Smiled like an anxious schoolgirl, eyes closed, as we presented her with our annual "surprise" May Day bouquet of freshly-picked violets. She always treated our gifts of refrigerator art like museum masterpieces.
Perhaps I should not have been surprised to find these hidden treasures. As a child, playing in the attic, I had accidentally discovered an old wooden box. It contained cards and love letters from my father, written to my mother while he fought in England and Germany during World War II. I had known my father as a large, powerful man, not given to outward displays of affection. My mother knew otherwise and had preserved his loving words. As she had preserved ours.
Let them know
Parents are always receiving gifts of one kind or another from their kids -- hugs, report cards, birthday breakfasts in bed. They can't all be stored away, secured by red lace or wooden boxes. But they can be celebrated. Thank your kids for their thoughtfulness. Let them know they have touched your heart. Kids' gifts require more than a simple thank you. Kids need to know how special their gifts are, and how special they are.
My wife and I have saved most of the homemade cards and gifts from our kids. They don't know it. Maybe sometime soon we'll put them in an album and show them. I want them to know how much we cherish their gifts, and them. I don't want them to find their gifts in a drawer.
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