When someone you love is no longer in your life what you miss about him or her gets scattered over time.
For instance, I didn’t miss the way Larry took responsibility for the maintenance of our cars until I needed to get work done on mine. I didn’t miss his photography skills until I had to ask someone else to take our holiday photo. (To be honest, there has been an extreme decline in photos of my children since Larry died.)
And I didn’t miss his thoughtful generosity until I had to face the first anniversary, birthday and mother’s day without him. It wasn’t the gift that I missed but his excitement in finding just the right one and, most of all, his desire to include our boys in the process so they could learn what it meant to give to others.
Larry loved giving gifts. What I loved is that each gift had a story that he shared as he waited for me to open it.
When the boys were old enough to walk he took them to the store so they could pick out a gift for me. He never persuaded them one way or another because he knew I would cherish whatever gift I received from my children.
Hence the butterfly earrings and pyramid salt and pepper shakers! The only problem was they were so excited about it that they wanted to tell me what they bought as soon as they got home from the store! Larry always found himself reminding them to keep it a surprise.
I can’t give my children credit for all the unique gifts I’ve received over the years. One year Larry decided I needed a ceramic pig with a chef hat and chalkboard for the kitchen! I still have it (pictured here) minus the chalkboard, but only because it broke. Despite some wacky gifts I also received beautiful ones that I cherish to this day.
I’ll always remember one of the last birthday gifts he gave me: a set of candles and an infuser with a white ceramic tray. He knew how much I loved to relax in the tub and even though we didn’t have the space in our current home to display it in the bathroom, he said I could save it for when we moved to a new home (the one we put a halt on when we found out he was sick). So I stored my birthday gift high on a shelf in my closet knowing one day I would get to use it.
On my first Christmas without Larry my wonderful sisters took it upon themselves to present me with a gift on Christmas day even though the adults in our family no longer exchanged gifts. They didn’t want me to go through the day without receiving something.
The following year I chose to stay in Arizona for the holidays even though it meant we would celebrate Christmas without extended family. I certainly didn’t expect my sisters to send me a gift, and this is when I really started to miss the lesson of giving Larry had been trying to teach our children.
With this in mind I talked to my three boys about buying gifts for one another, including me. I could tell they were excited about getting me a gift. I created a small list and took them to Target. I gave them money from the gift jar that we added to throughout the year and told them I would wait at the front of the store for them.
I loved seeing the smile on their faces and each one hushing the other not to tell me what they bought. It brought back fond memories of when Larry took them to the store and they were bursting with excitement to tell me their secrets.
That year, Christmas morning, after the boys opened their gifts they encouraged me to open mine.
Here is the list I gave them:
• The movie Bridesmaids starring Kristen Wiig. I saw this in the theater after a really difficult day and it made me laugh so hard I wanted to have it on hand for future laughs.
• Open-toed slippers. I live in Arizona and my feet get hot, even on cold mornings.
• New pajamas. I realize now I should have been more specific with this one.
Here is what I got:
• The movie Bride Wars starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway.
• Faux fur-lined closed-toe slippers.
• New pajamas: size extra-large, I’m a medium.
Oh they were so excited to see me open my presents there was no way I could be disappointed. So I watched the movie and had to admit there were a few funny parts that made me laugh. And I still wear the slippers, although they are reserved for REALLY cold mornings. The pajamas I did end up taking back, but only for an even exchange to get the correct size.
Seeing the joy it brought my children I decided to keep up this tradition so we repeated it the following year. This time I just gave them carte blanche: I decided Larry gave them free reign and so would I.
So yes, I’ve received a few more “unique” gifts over the years. The bungee chair for mother’s day comes to mind! But I love each gift because I love the feeling that a little piece of Larry – and his love of giving- is shining through each of the boys, and that is the best gift of all.
Then came our first Christmas in the new house, which happened to be our third Christmas without Larry. We followed the same routine of the boys opening their presents first, with me trying to take a few pictures to capture the moment, and then I opened my gifts. Afterward the boys really wanted to play with their new games, so I went to take a bath. I figured I would relax in the tub for a while before I had to start cooking.
In my bathroom I opened a cabinet in search of bath salts. Instead what I found took me completely by surprise and forced me to sit down while tears streamed down my face.
The move from our old home to the one we live in now was very emotional. I struggled with the feeling that I was leaving Larry behind.
Prior to the move I got help from people to help me pack and even with more help it took months for me to unpack. To this day I honestly don’t recall packing or unpacking what I found in my cabinet that glorious Christmas morning.
It was the set of candles, infuser and white ceramic tray Larry had given to me on my birthday which I had stored high on a shelf in the closet of our old house.
I sat there for what seemed like an eternity marveling at this completely unexpected gift. It felt as though Larry had given it to me that morning and a great sense of peace washed over me: no matter where we live, he will always be with us.
That is my hope for you this holiday season: that you have faith. No matter where you are or what you face, know you’re loved one is with you, always.
I hope and pray you have a magical holiday.
P.S. Congratulations to Kim K., the winner of the December Holiday Stress Buster Giveaway!
To all of you who entered the giveaway, thank you, and please don’t despair, there will be another giveaway in January 2015!
P.P.S. I am taking next week off to spend time with my family so there won’t be a weekly newsletter. The next weekly newsletter will be on January 7, 2015! Until then, I wish you and your family a very Happy Holiday!