December 11, 2009

Unexpected Gifts

I was looking for wrapping paper yesterday so I could get a few things that need to be shipped all wrapped up and crossed off my to-do list.

There was just one problem. I couldn’t find the wrapping paper—and I knew we had some because I’d seen it just the day before.

Missing wrapping paper is the sort of thing I really shouldn’t bug Adam about when he’s at work, but I have none of those boundaries. I once called him to get his opinion on a shower curtain. A shower curtain! If I had any shame, that would make me feel it.

More frequently when I interrupt Adam’s day, it’s not even for anything of shower-curtain-level importance. Instead, I’m blaming him for stuff the kids have done, which I do so that I’m not always on their little backs for things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of life but are nonetheless Very Annoying.

For example, I will type: “Adam, I noticed you wiped your strawberry flavored toothpaste on my towel. So glad you didn’t go to school with that on your face!”

And Adam will reply, “You are welcome. And I wanted to thank YOU for throwing the hand towel on the ground after you were done with it. That was a big help.”

It’s the little things that make a marriage work.

Though it represented a new low, I pestered Adam about the wrapping paper because I had a dim memory of him saying the day before to Alice and her little playmate that “the wrapping paper tube is not a sword and if you keep swinging it like that, you will break a lamp.”

While Adam did keep our lamps intact, he didn’t know what had become of the wrapping paper. Grr. I soon found it beneath the Christmas tree wrapped crazily around a variety of misshapen objects.

Now that Lucy has become a full-fledged member of Team Santa, she’s taken it upon herself to put gifts beneath the tree. She’d taken my fine red-and-gold paper and wrapped it around some unknown object, finishing it off with a note that said, “To: Alice, Mery Chrisemas.”

In retrospect, I was not surprised. A few days before, Lucy had sneaked a present below the tree for me.

“Who’s this for?” she said. Unexpected Gifts

“I’m not sure,” I replied.

“Aren’t you going to look?” she said.

“Not right now. I’m cooking dinner.”

“It’s for you,” she said. “Don’t you want to open it?”

“Oh, no,” I said, wanting to demonstrate restraint. “I want to save my presents for Christmas.”

“It’s office supplies,” she said. “I know how you love office supplies.”

So much for restraint. But at least now I know where I will be able to find my scissors and extra printer paper.

Still, Lucy knows more than she realizes about the power of gifts. I do love office supplies, especially the ones I have already purchased and am constantly chiding the kids not to steal for their art projects.

(To wit: Alice ran into my office a couple of weeks ago to report it was snowing. She dragged me into their bedroom and showed how they’d covered the window in paper snowflakes. My heart melted into a puddle on the floor, but was quickly soaked up by the scraps from said paper snowflakes.)

What Lucy had wrapped for Alice was a stuffed witch—one of the much-loved Halloween decorations I’d recently boxed and put back into the basement. For Rosie, she packaged a handful of dog kibble into a festive lunch sack. Adam’s getting a ruler, some painting tape, and a handful of loose screws—all things he can use to do projects around the house.

I’ve put a lot of thought into the presents I’m giving the kids this year. I don’t want them to have too much stuff, and I don’t want to spend money on things that will be discarded quickly, or things that won’t help them grow into their full selves. It’s sort of a tall order.

This is why it’s humbling to realize that Lucy, in her innocent zeal, has me beat. Her gifts say, “I know you, and I know what gives you joy.” Better yet, they were a reminder that in each other, we have everything we really need.

It’s true that kids can make a mess with the toothpaste and towels. But the gifts they give us, without knowing it, never fail to take my breath away.

--Martha Brockenbrough



My son often wraps himself in a blanket or sheet I've just washed and folded and yells that their is a present for me in the livingroom. No matter how annoyed about the sheets I am it always melts my heart when he asks if it is the best present I've ever gotten. Yes, son you are the best!


Such a lovely message. (I have a few of those types of presents under my tree as well.)

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