Sunday, December 16, 2012

Article #11 "The Ultimate Gift..."

As the holidays draw near I am reminded of the importance of family; not just the importance of but the blessings of having a family. Earlier in the day as I was sifting through photographs from Christmas years past, I came across a picture of my brother and me. I was eight, Cal had just turned four, and we were sitting in front of the Christmas tree in the apartment that we lived in with our mother just after our parents had divorced. I was all dolled up in a festive Christmas sweater, the curls in my hair tied back with a Christmas bow and of course, my enormous round glasses. Cal was dressed in a bright red Christmas sweater that had his name boldly embroidered on the front, a mischievous grin painted across his face. You wouldn't know it from this photograph alone, but there was a story unfolding before the twinkle in our eyes.

My mother, my brother and I had recently moved into a townhouse located on the east end of town. My brother and I shared a bedroom on the second floor, Barbies on one side, Hot Wheels on the other. Of course, every now and then I would find my Ken doll underneath Cal's bed, tangled in sewing thread as if he were a hostage, one of Cal's many ways of irritating me.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, hairbrush in hand, admiring the bouncy curls my mother had created in my hair. I was eight years old, convinced that I would be the next Marie Osmond. I smiled my best smile at my reflection and practiced my introduction, "It is very lovely to meet you." I wasn't sure what to think about the events that were about to take place. My parents had divorced a year earlier, sending my brother and me into a world of unknowns, confusion, and fears. We had endured so much already - moving, new babysitters, rearranged schedules; and now my brother and I would soon meet a man whom our mother had been spending quite a bit of time with. He was a man we could clearly see made her happy, but at the same time, it was all so much for an eight-year-old and a four-year-old to take in and understand.

The apartment was filled with smells of chocolate meringue pie, the delicious dinner my mother had prepared, and cinnamon candles that burned throughout our tiny home. The Christmas tree was decorated with homemade ornaments from elementary Christmas parties and twinkling white lights. A Christmas record crackled holiday tunes sung by John Denver and Anne Murray.

The doorbell rang. Butterflies twittered deep inside my tummy. My mother floated into the front room, smoothing out her apron. She placed my small hand in hers and called up the stairs for my brother to come down. Sliding down the stair rail and jumping in front of my mother and me, Cal flung open the front door.

There stood my mother's prince, all six feet four inches of him. He looked like a body builder, strong and lean. My mother beamed as she invited him in. I extended my arm and reached for his hand, "Hello, it is lovely to meet you." Erwin smiled a warm smile and took my hand, "Hello Betsy; it is very nice to meet you, too!" Cal hovered beside my mother's leg, his arms wrapped around her thigh. "Hello Cal, I'm Erwin." Cal scurried off towards the couch, jumping onto the cushions, a show unfolding as he began to show off for this new man in our lives!

Sitting on the couch next to Cal, Erwin held out two wrapped packages, one for Cal and one for me. Without hesitation, Cal ripped through the red wrappings to reveal the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears A Who. I carefully began to unwrap my gift. Peeling back the scotch tape I slid my finger underneath the shimmering paper to reveal a beautifully illustrated children's dictionary.

I watched as my mother swooned over Erwin. Remembering my mother's suggestions of politeness, I entered the kitchen to grab a plate of cookies to offer to Erwin. I reached up to the counter top to take the plate of goodies and saw an envelope. Curious, I grabbed the envelope and read the scribble on the front: "To Cinderella." It was for my mother from Erwin. "He loves her!” I whispered to myself, thinking that one day I would have my own "Prince Charming."

December 10, 1982 was the night that Cal and I met the man we would come to call “father” for years to come. A man who rescued my mother, and really, my brother and me. A man who would love us as his own. He would teach us right from wrong, he would instill faith within our hearts, he would encourage us to be the best, and he would become the greatest influences in our lives, one memory at a time.

It was the ultimate Christmas gift. No, it wasn't Horton Hears A Who or a  lovely children's dictionary. It was the gift of love, understanding, patience, and protection. It was the gift of a father.

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