Sunday, December 19, 2010

It Isn't Much to Look at But the Gift is Priceless

I just couldn’t wait for my oldest daughter, Erin to open her Christmas present this year. She was at my house with her husband and baby, Rain, her first child, born this past April. The present under wraps was hardly a prize; it was thirty years old and looked it, but it was priceless in sentiment. When she first unwrapped it she said, “Why are you giving me my music box?” When I said, “Open it,” I believe she understood.

This music box was a gift for my first child’s first Christmas. That was December. I could not afford a fancy gift back then but I splurged on this one. I added a note to my baby, one that told her how precious she was to me although I’d known her for just one month.

When I found the music box in our attic I had only planned on giving it to her so she could take it home. I opened the little drawer attached and took out the note I wrote so many years ago.

 I carefully unfolded it and began to read and then an odd thing happened: the clown behind the glass began to dance. This is a music box that you wind up and when you open the drawer the little clown marionette dances to the song, “Send in the Clowns.” However, I had not wound up the box and the drawer had been open for a good five minutes before the dancing began, when I was halfway through reading the letter with tears brimming on my lids.

Now, there’s probably a perfectly good, scientific explanation for the clown dancing in this case, but frankly I prefer to see it as a sign.

Once I’d read my long-ago letter to my first daughter, the thought came to me that I should now write a letter to her daughter, my first granddaughter for her first Christmas. Rain is the love of my daughter’s heart, just as Erin is to me. I felt it only fitting to write a note for Rain so that thirty years from now she could be reminded just how precious and loved she is, even before we know the woman that she will become.

When I wrote to the infant Erin, our life together as mother and daughter had yet to unfold. Erin has never disappointed me; rather she has made me the proudest mom and I have loved being a part of her journey through life. Married now, working in the animal field, and raising her child with love and affection, I am so grateful that I can be here to witness it all. My own mother, dead just after my first birthday, was not so fortunate. That is why the moments I have had with Erin, her sister, and my three grandchildren are so precious to me. It is this continuity that I strive so hard to maintain. My own history was stripped from me so to create and preserve it for my own progeny is a gift as precious as life for me.

The look on Erin’s face as she read first the letter addressed to her and then the one to her daughter said I am on the right track. It was a moment etched in my mind that I will carry with me forever. And someday hopefully, Rain’s own children will know who I am by these gestures of love and carry on the tradition created by me on that Christmas just thirty short years ago.

The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind. -- John Allston

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