Sunday, February 17, 2008

What's Love

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.


What's Love

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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27 comments:

Mamma said...

How wonderful that she could appreciate the concept of a special gift from a secret friend.

I imagine she wouldn't have been able to appreciate it as much if she hadn't learned how special love is from her own family.

Gwen said...

So sweet! And what a good friend.

In our family, one daughter would have been so upset that she didn't get a gift, too, she might just have ruined it for the other daughter.

markira said...

I sent each of my children a carnation on Carnation/Valentine's Day at school. From "Anonymous."

Each of them (Kira, age 8, and Mark, age 12) was pretty excited to have gotten a secret-admirer flower. Mark was trying to figure out which girl sent it to him, and Kira thought hers must be from a teacher.

They got so much more pleasure from it than they would have if I just signed "From Mom."

the dragonfly said...

That is really sweet. A mystery can be lots of fun, no matter what your age!

SciFi Dad said...

Like Gwen, I too was surprised by the lack of envy from Persistence. That reflects well on you, Julie.

But, I must admit to being curious... did she ever discover who the secret friend was?

Kyla said...

Awww! That is so sweet. I love those moments where things finally click and they really appreciate something like this.

Julie Pippert said...

I'll be honest...Persistence did question her lack of gift.

I told her I knew for sure one would come for her that day and wouldn't it be fun to guess when and what, and for now let's have fun with what Patience got.

I guess I ought to be surprised that she was agreeable, but I'm not terribly.

She was legitimately happy for Patience and interested in her gift.

She has her moments---oh does she EVER---and sometimes she wants things for herself, but I think she's learned to trust in general that her turn will come.

Also by personality she's not Lady Justice.

The scene would not have been so lovely and pleasant had Persistence's gift come first.

Patience would not have been so gracious I imagine.

I've also worked HARD---it's a BIG THING to me---to model and teach being happy for someone else in their moment.

Julie Pippert said...

P.S. No, we still don't know who the secret friend is. My group is pretty close but some of us more so than others. Whoever had my girls knows them *well.* Someone knew these "treasures" for "big girls" would well please Patience and the other person who had Persistence knew that she loved blankets and got her a princess fleece blanket (pink with magenta crowns on it), princess socks, and a little strawberry plant.

Our secret friends did a GREAT job.

Julie Pippert said...

P.P.S. In Patience's defense, she might get envious and look for fairness, but she can also be very generous. She let her hold the doll and elephant (briefly, under my supervision). Later, after school, she gave Persistence a lollipop. Also, onemore thing to Persistence, the day before she'd had her school party and Valentine exchange so in her mind she already had received gifts. Now that day Patience did ask, and I reminded her she had hers the next day and she was gracious. Again, also, Persistence was generous and shared a lollipop.

They CAN be VERY sweet girls.

Suki said...

Wow, you have some very thoughtful secret friends! :)

Reading up all your blogs makes me realize that Valentine's Day can be so much more than just a commercial advertisement. Here it's just something to boost Archies Gallery sales... with no feeling behind it whatsoever.
I really love the idea of secret gifts, though :)

flutter said...

I love that she expects love from family, that it's a given. That is exactly how a kid should feel

ewe are here said...

What a wonderful, happy mystery for her... like flutter says, that is exactly how a kid should feel.

Jane the Sane said...

What a sweet story! I can imagine her shining eyes :)

le35 said...

I'm so glad for both of your girls and for what a lovely mom they have. We had an experience like this once. We went to a birthday party and it was time to open presents. Jackie got so excited and just wanted to see what was in them. There were 17 kids at this birthday party and only four of them (including the birthday girl) were around the table watching the presents opened. Jackie just loved watching and eagerly took her the next present. I love both of your girls for how lovingly they did this. :)

Robert said...

Our daughter was wonderful at Christmas this year. It was very magical in this way. She got us up and asked if she could go into the music room where the tree was. We went with her, letting our son sleep. She patiently passed out a gift to each person and waited for them to open it. We'd opened all of them by the time her brother got up, so she helped him open all of his. They had a lot of fun together, and it was a sweet day.

Great story.

Lawyer Mama said...

That is such a sweet story. What a great idea that secret gift exchange is!

Aliki2006 said...

Both daughters sound so generous and sweet--and her joy was almost tangible!

Cathy said...

That was such a sweet, sweet story!

wheelsonthebus said...

Love from the family is a baseline. How perfectly put.

Sober Briquette said...

oh, I love the magic! What a great story.

Kathryn said...

Oh how sweet! She has such a grateful heart. I love it! Great story!

Andrea said...

That is so sweet. Whta a lovely story.

Yolanda said...

"Someone likes me so much...they left me a gift?" she asked.

Those words break my heart. Perhaps because I can picture the young, little me saying the exact same thing had I received a mytsery gift from a secret friend.

Magpie said...

That is wonderful.

zephyr sloan said...

hey!
what a lovely story...you really do have some thoughtful secret friends and very good daughters!
you're doing a pretty good job with them!
love such mysterious cute stories!

Wayfarer Scientista said...

just want to say I'm sorry your property suffered damage from the storms but I'm glad you and your family are okay.

paula said...

i am glad that your family is ok.... thank god