My Many Gifts

            This first gift that I recall receiving from my dad was a beat-up lunch box. I was around four years of age, old enough to know that owning a lunch box meant going somewhere. My dad carried one every day to work. The kids who walked past our project house also carried them to and from school.

            I didn’t know what school was, but I knew that I wanted to go there. I yearned to join the stream of laughing, happy kids, imagining that simply being with them would bestow upon me the happiness that they casually enjoyed.

            Unfortunately, that old lunch box did not grant me admission to school, but it did give me a place to store my treasures that I didn’t want my brother to steal.

            When I was in second grade, I attended a Catholic elementary school. That’s the year that I made my First Holy Communion. I had to wear a white dress, veil, gloves and shoes. Because we had little money, my mother bought the cheapest ones she could find, which turned out to be horribly uncomfortable. There was no money left over for the white prayer book and rosary that I was also required to have. Without them, the nuns were not going to let me participate. Imagine my surprise when an aunt delivered the items!

            Over the next several years I was given an old bicycle, clamp-on roller skates and a small transistor radio. The bike and skates gave me freedom. I explore my neighborhood, escaping the never-ending tension inside the house. The radio gave me music.

            Before the radio, I was only able to listen to whatever my dad chose whether in the car or at home. With my own radio, I could choose music that made me feel happy, that lifted my spirits. Not because it was different, but because it was mine.

            When my brother graduated from the Catholic elementary, my parents enrolled me in the public middle school. I had no appropriate clothes to wear. An aunt who dressed in very nice clothes, gave me a stack of things she no longer wanted. Everything was lined. Everything felt rich to the touch. The only problem was that she was pencil-thin and I was round.

            My mom was an excellent seamstress, so she took apart every article, ironed the fabric, then using patterns, cut and created matching skirts and vests for me. When I went to school, I felt proud. Until I noticed that no one wore vests!

            That aunt delivered a new selection of clothes every few months, until we moved to California.   

            I don’t recall any gifts received throughout the rest of my high school and college years. I’m sure there were albums and clothes. Shoes and bobby pins. Slips and nightgowns, but nothing of lasting substance.

            The best gifts that I ever received arrived in my twenties, when my husband proposed and then we had three wonderful children. Those are my most precious gifts, the most wonderful things that ever came my way.

            Even today, after forty-seven years of marriage, I still cherish the wonders that are mine. Every day I am grateful that my husband chose me, that he loves me and treats me with respect that I had never felt before.

            He encourages me to try new things, to explore on my own different interests, and to go off on trips where I meet new people and learn new things.

            My children, now grown, also blessed me with the gift of their chosen life partners. I have two amazing daughters-in-law and one son-in-law who is equally wonderful. I couldn’t have received more thoughtful gifts!

            Add to that, seven grandchildren who are unique, intelligent, talented and loving. They all bring me great joy.

            Growing up I seldom had someone I could call friend. I was a shy, withdrawn and often sullen child. I wanted friends, but didn’t know how to get them.

            Every now and then someone would approach me and invite me to be with them. I loved those times! But because my family moved often, once we were gone, those friends were lost.

            You don’t realize what a gift friendship is until you have it. I am blessed to have a wide variety of friends now. Some are writers, some hikers, some swimmers. Some like movies and going out for lunch. Some like talking about books.

            I consider all of them gifts, even those that I smile at when I see them at the gym. When one of them smiles at me, it reminds me how truly blessed I am.

            I have received many gifts throughout my life and am lucky to still have quite a few in my life.

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