Last night we had storms come through and were under a tornado watch until three a.m. Because two tornadoes did touch down just south of us, and still antsy from the recent tragedies north of us in Tennessee, we decided to sleep with the radio on in case they ran the siren alert through the emergency broadcast system.
Used to silence, so to speak, at night, the unusual noise and changes from one symphony to another would periodically trigger my brain to sit up and sniff like a curious dog. These brief moments of wakefulness would, I knew, lead me to wake with a fatigue restless night's sleep headache, but also gave me uninterrupted time to think---which in my case means storytell.
So I decided to write up the top two stories from the last few days. Today, a tale of romance and friendship...tomorrow a tale of something lost and something found, with humor and a twist.
Thursday morning---Valentine's Day---we came downstairs long after my husband had already left for work. A medium sized red bag waited at the base of the stairs.
"What's that...who's that for...why is there a present on our stairs...?!?!?" the girls clamored.
"Well it's Valentine's Day but I'm not quite sure..." I said, reaching for the bag, looking for a tag. I found it. A secret valentine for Patience.
Every year my mom's group organizes a name draw and gift exchange for various holidays including Valentine's. You purchase a gift and at some point on the designated day, leave it---with a tag saying it's from a secret admirer---on the front porch. In the past, the kids have always been happy to get a gift, but neither has ever really understood the process, captured a meaning.
This year was different.
"It's for you, Patience, from a secret friend who wanted to give you something special on Valentine's Day," I said.
She inhaled a gasp, "For ME?!?! From a secret friend?!?!"
I handed the bag to her, and she took it with an air of reverence. She held the bag for a moment, more intrigued by the idea that she had a secret friend---one who leaves gifts!
"Someone likes me so much...they left me a gift?" she asked.
"Yes indeed," I told her, smiling, "So open it and see what you got!"
She sat down at the bottom of the stairs and dove in to the bag, pulling out pink, red, and heart dotted tissue paper. She finally pulled out a bulky and heavy piece of tissue. "I think this is it!" she said, still awed, and now excited. She carefully unwrapped the object, pausing now and again to make a comment such as, "It must be very precious," and "A secret friend! Who likes me and brought me a present!"
"Look mom," she said, holding up a small china elephant that clutched a heart sign that read "love."
"Wow," I said, "Look at that!"
"It's a girl elephant, too," she said, pointing the pink dress the creature wore, "And it's got a heart that says love!"
"It's lovely," I told her, "What a thoughtful thing for someone to have done!"
"Not someone!" she said passionately, "My secret friend!"
"Yes," I agreed, "So is that it? Bag empty?"
"Wait, let me look," she said, setting the elephant gently beside her, "Oh look! Something else, and a card!"
She unwrapped another item, and gasped again, "Oh Mom! Look! It's a china doll! An old fashioned girl, oh look at her golden curls, and she's holding a flower! I'll have to give her a flower name, but just the perfect one, because she's so precious, from my secret friend!" She cradled the small china doll, then held her up for closer inspection. She checked her dress, pantaloons, flower, curls under a cap, and declared her the most beautiful doll.
"She's fragile, so we have to be very careful," she warned us.
She got ready for school distractedly. She was, I think, equally eager to know who her secret friend was and happy to keep the mystery. Still, she pestered me with questions and peppered me with theories.
"I honestly don't know who it is," I told her. She never was that disappointed.
When her father came home, she ran to him, pumped with excitement, "I got a china doll and elephant today," she shouted at him, "From a secret friend! I guess somebody just loves me that much."
All the rest of her day---card and candy exchange at school, party, everything---fell to the wayside in comparison to the gift from the secret friend. I was a little amazed that a child who has known so much love would be surprised by it. And yet, she was. When I thought about it, I realized that, from her point of view, love from family is a baseline, expected. To know that someone else, outside the family, likes you enough to go to the trouble to buy and bring you a gift...that's very special indeed.
I watched her telling her father about discovering the gift, explaining it was from someone who liked her and thought she was important, then sharing how she unwrapped each item. I followed her as she dragged him to her room to see the precious objects. Her eyes shone with the magic of the mystery and the romance. Such a little thing brought so much.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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