Friday, March 8, 2013

Comfort and Joy

Early this week my youngest daughter was sick. Normally spirited and silly, she spent a couple of days sad and tired and on the couch, cuddled up with two favorite items given as gifts. The first is her pink, pajama-clad stuffed dog, given to her when she was only a few days old by her Aunt Laura, and which she sleeps with every night. The other is “Auntie Carol’s blanket,” given to us last Christmas by someone who has known me since I was new to the world.

Auntie Carol is not technically my aunt, but the woman who was my next door neighbor for the first 18 years of my life, and who adopted the entire neighborhood to love. My children have met Auntie Carol only a couple of times, but they adore the soft, cream-colored blanket she crocheted for us. Perhaps they can feel the love of this woman who is kind and gentle and one of the most truly sweet people I have ever known. Whatever she put into that blanket has made it a coveted treasure in our home, and one that brought a semblance of comfort to a sad little girl with a fever and sore throat.

We all have gifts that are cherished for the comfort and joy they bring to us. Some of them are favorites for a short while, others for a lifetime.

For my 25th birthday, my mother gave me the diamond from her own mother’s engagement ring, strung on a simple gold chain. I have worn that necklace on the rare occasion that I am dressed up, but also when I need a little extra luck or support. It belonged first to my grandmother, and so when it hangs from my neck, I feel her spirit is with me. I wore it on my wedding day, along with the diamond studs my almost-husband presented to me the night before, which were a perfect match.

When I had my first babies – twins – my friend Becky, who has been my buddy since we were ourselves wee babes, sent me a ridiculously soft robe and super cozy socks. Another time, those gifts would have been just plain nice. But at that exact point in my life they were a touch of luxury when I felt both happy and exhausted, but certainly not luxurious.

Some of my favorite gifts now are those that remind me of my past, distant or recent. My mother
has given me albums filled with photographs from my childhood through to my children’s first years. My son and daughters love to look at these photos, to see how Mama and Uncle Billy and Uncle Michael looked as kids, and what Nana and Poppy looked like years before they became grandparents. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and just as many emotions.

Tucked away here and there, in my office, in the drawer of my bedside table, in the basket on the kitchen counter that holds various “stuff,” are little treasures from my children. Birthday cards made before they could write, self-portraits of each of them drawn in crayon with perfect u-shaped smiles and big ears and no noses, notes in washable marker declaring, “I love Mama.”

Those love notes are mere scribbles to anyone but me. My Nana’s diamond is just a diamond to anyone else, but it is a sentimental treasure to me, just as the earrings my husband gave me are special because they were his last gift to me before we married, left on my pillow on the eve of our wedding. The photographs from my past contain my memories, and those of my family. The super-soft robe from Becky is special because she knew, at that exact moment in my life, that I needed something warm and soft and easy. Auntie Carol’s blanket is simply a blanket made from neat rows of soft yarn, but for me and for my children, it represents the comfort of home. 

The best gifts are not necessarily the ones that come in the biggest box or tied with the prettiest ribbon. The best gifts are the ones that bring us joy and comfort, whether through touch, familiarity, promises of the future, or memories recalled.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted on her Blog: Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears in the March 8, 2013 edition of the Record-Littleton.

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