A number of years before my Mom passed away, she called and asked “If I was to gift you with something, what would you like?”
Mom and I had an agreement. It was very simple: the only gift I wanted was a lovely handwritten card and the latest photograph taken of her.
So her question that day was a little puzzling.
“I really want to make you something”, she went on to say. “Something that will remind you of me and the special connection we have.”
Mom had a history of giving me really tacky gifts, hence the agreement about a card and a photograph. Of course I never told her the real reason why I didn’t want any gifts.
So feeling a little surprised by her question and already sensing a decline in her health, I said “Surprise me.” She quickly quipped, “Thank you dear, what fun.”
Months later, on a trip to Calgary to visit, she excitedly met me in the hallway of her condo and said, “I have a surprise for you.” She grabbed my arm and hustled me into her home.
“Remember when I asked you if I could make you something?” to which I quickly replied, “I sure do.” I remember suddenly feeling a little nervous as I glanced at a neatly wrapped package on her kitchen table.
Mom loved to do “crafts”, meaning she excelled at piecing together bits and pieces of nearly any material and calling it art. She was immensely proud of her creations and there was never a time I didn’t praise her efforts. She spent hours, days, weeks and months on her “special projects”.
I pride myself on living light and free, with no true attachment to the few material things I have. In fact I have a rule: if something material comes into my life, I choose to let something go. It keeps me from accumulating stuff. The men I have loved in my life know this all too well, not only having heard my “hang on tightly, let go lightly” soliloquy but also knowing this had most assuredly applied to any gift they may have given me.
Decades ago, my Mom had gifted me a rather hideous brass dolphin with a dangling cut glass pendant. I made the mistake of telling her I had given it away. I quickly endured the shaming wrath of Dorothy Dolan when it came to letting her gifts go lightly. Hence the invention of the card and photo gift exchange.
With great excitement, Mom demanded that I open the gift.
It had been a long time since I had received a wrapped gift from Mom. I had gotten used to peeling open the envelope of a greeting card, reading words of love and seeing another wide eyed smile of my Mom.
As the wrapping paper pulled away from the box, I remembered a commitment I made to myself when it came to Mom’s gift giving, “Never judge a gift by the box.” I giggled as I remembered this mantra.
Mom loved scotch tape. It always took careful slicing skills, with one of her old butter knives, to make sure what ever lurked within the box came out in one piece. All I remember hearing Mom say was, “Be careful dear.”
When the hermetically sealed box was finally opened, the first thing I noticed was a pink coloured top hat. I felt Mom squeeze my arm as I slowly pulled out a ceramic clown.
Its nose and lips were painted red and in the spirit of Mom always making sure her hat and shoes matched, the shoes were also pink.
With a long history of receiving “special gifts”, I was aware of my first thoughts and über careful to make sure I didn’t use my out loud voice.
“I made it just for you. Think of it as one of the last gifts I’ll give you.” My heart sunk, my eyes welled up with tears. I was speechless.
With glee that I hadn’t felt from her in years, she implored excitedly, “I wrote a special message on the bottom. Turn it over.”
At first, because of my tears, it was a challenge to focus. But as I steadied my breath and quickly wiped my eyes, the inscription, written with a black Sharpie, came into focus. “To my Princess, love always, Mom.”
“It’s an early birthday present dear. I hope you like it.”
Mom raised 10 kids in a small one-bedroom house in northwest Calgary. When she sold the house it was knocked down and a children’s daycare was built on the property. The daycare seemed like a fitting tribute to her. So, when I felt moved to let this gift go, after Mom passed away, I chose to take it back to Calgary.
One of my siblings had planted a tree at the daycare as a sapling, and which now towered over it. Keeping in my mind and heart that I was only letting go of the object not the memory, I placed the clown against the tree. I imagined a small child the next morning discovering it and, in that moment, I felt my Mom squeeze my arm.