OUR FAVORITE GIFTS OF 2017
I usually just say no. I get several requests every year to work privately with children. I am most comfortable with adults, and I feel that another speech therapist would be better suited for helping children.
Given that, I did have the pleasure of working with a fine young boy on his speech sounds for an extended period of time. I said yes to this request, and I am so glad I did.
I went to his home typically once a week after school for a period of several years. He and his family were delightful. I was a guest in their home, but they made me feel at home every time I was there.
Every year at Christmas, I received a handmade Christmas ornament from him. He presented them to me on my last visit before the holiday; and I treasured each of them. I hung them together on my tree, and sent a picture to his mother to show him how great they looked on our tree.
I stopped working with him just over a year ago, not long before Christmas. When I put the tree up this year, I hung each of his three ornaments together. I stepped back and smiled, recalling the fond memories of him and his family.
About a week before Christmas, I stopped by Suzanne’s house. Her home is close to theirs, and as I drove by their street, I recalled more fond memories of him and his family.
When I got home, there was a parcel on my porch. His name was on it. He made another ornament for me.
There are some rewards to my work that no paycheck can compete with.
Another patient, knowing my dad’s favorite pie was a straight raisin pie—no cream on this one—and that I liked it too, delivered one to me the week before Christmas. His wife made it just for me. It was delicious, and my dad would have loved it.
And there’s James and Lucy from my Time for Letting Go: Part Two, dated October 29th. How did they know I love clean and fresh candle scents instead of flowery ones? I have told them so much about me, but I am sure I didn’t share this little fact. They just knew.
Therapists are not allowed to accept large gifts, but our code of ethics allows those of “nominal” value. Monetarily, these could be called “nominal.” However, they are worth far more in a different kind of currency. When I sometimes feel I am making no difference, not helping these people at all, I simply remember their appreciation expressed through gifts like these. And then I remember why I continue to do this work.
Gail, Suzanne and I have an annual Christmas tradition. We give each other gifts. Of course, this sounds like garden variety gift-giving. But these are no regular gifts. These are gifts we shop for year-round, gifts we accumulate slowly, methodically, purposefully. We buy them new in cool stores, used at garage sales, find the hard-to-find ones on eBay, troll the thrift stores year-round (Suzanne and I do, anyway), and special order them when we need to. These gifts—and there are multiple ones for each of us—are, quite simply, the best.
During our family Christmas get-together, we sneak away for our private exchange when we think no one is looking. Except they’re on to us by now, and when we slip away, someone always finds us.
Busted again! We thought perhaps in Ryan’s house, they wouldn’t know where to look, but they did. The sisters-in-law have now vowed—in good-natured ribbing– to start their own secret gift exchange, and we hope they do, because it is so much fun.
These gifts are special, solemn and secret. It would not be right to showcase them, but perhaps the picture gives you a small inkling. We seem to know exactly what each of us needs to get in a special package from their two special sisters.
Because Suzanne is a minimalist, and because laughter is a gift too, she chose to receive her largest gift from me as a ticket to a night together, complete with much laughter.
There is a small, art-deco style theater in the beautiful downtown of our small city. A very funny lady with a great first name—Kathleen Madigan—performed there in November, so Suzanne was my date. The memories of her humor and our laughter made that gift priceless to me, and I hope Suzanne felt the same way.
Gail and I always find treasures in Cripple Creek at Christine’s place, 9494. I had found yet another one there on our trip in September, and I resisted the temptation—initially. I told myself if it was still there the next day that it was mine. We went back, and it was gone. “Then it wasn’t meant to be,” I thought, and assumed it had found a more deserving home.
It showed up in my gift package from Gail.
Suzanne’s daughter gave her a gift that brought back great memories of her childhood, a retro-style toy that was recently resurrected, and Julia found her mother’s favorite one, which was Suzanne’s favorite tangible gift:
Suzanne was an exceptionally cute little girl. Of course, she is still cute, but not like she was when we were kids. She treasures a certain picture of both of us, one where she looks cute as a button, and I look, well, not cute. She delights in showing this picture to her new co-workers, because I already knew many of them. She wanted me to have an enlarged print. She wanted to keep the frame subtle, she said, so as not to take the focus off of the subjects of the picture. It now sits on my bedside table.
(Please realize the enormous amount of self-acceptance required for me to post this picture for the world to see.)
There is a certain person who delights in reminding me just how not cute I look in this picture. He even has the audacity to suggest that, perhaps, my pre-adolescent female hormones were late to arrive. He knows who he is, and I have but one cryptic word for him: karma.
Mercifully, my fashion sense has evolved, the gap between my teeth grew shut, I shed the pre-adolescent weight, and I got a more flattering haircut.
But all these things are just things.
The greatest gifts are not things. The greatest gifts cannot be bought or touched. They are experienced.
We celebrated Christmas with our siblings and their families, and we celebrated Ryan’s birthday too, just as we always do.
Our day at his house together was wrapped up at its close with another beautiful Kansas sunset, its vast expanse visible out his front door.
Because I couldn’t decide if the earlier picture or the later one was more beautiful, I included both of them.
Gail and her family left Ryan’s house in the pre-dawn hours and headed north to visit Gail’s daughter and her family in northern Michigan. After a semi-treacherous period of 20 hours, five more than it should have taken, they arrived.
Gail’s greatest gift she says—hands down—was time with her daughter, and her grandsons.
The ornaments, the pie, candle and necklace, and all the other gifts were absolutely wonderful. I am very grateful to each of their givers for their thoughtfulness and generosity.
The biggest and best gifts, however, cannot be wrapped and given away, cannot be bought or made. The Giver gives, and too often, we take, without saying thank you.
For these gifts bestowed upon me in 2017, I want to give thanks:
*Always, for my sisters.
*Suzanne now lives and works in my small city, much closer to me.
*More travels with my sisters. Whether it be Colorado, Florida, Nebraska or somewhere in Kansas, I relish the memories and look forward to making more.
*The unique celebration of sisterhood through this blog.
*Another year, another birthday to relish, because age is a gift. I welcomed 51, Gail celebrated 57, and Suzanne is proud to be 47. We don’t hide our ages, because we know the gift of every year, of every day, every moment.
*For you, dear reader. You gave me the faith to keep this endeavor afloat after its maiden voyage. You made me believe I really can do it.
*Work that continues to sustain and support me.
*Good health: my work reminds me every day that it is a gift not granted, a gift to be savored and enjoyed every day.
*My ability to communicate in spoken and written form. My work also reminds me daily of this gift, the gift that allows us to connect with others and be fully alive through it.
*Our continued constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These may be legal rights, but more importantly, they are all three gifts from God.
*My family. Another addition extended the circle of love.
Because my patients also found the humor in these, I want to share two misspoken New Year’s greetings from two different women who had strokes, and had difficulty choosing the right words. It was New Year’s Eve day during their therapy sessions three years and one year ago respectively, and after multiple attempts, these two greetings are what they called good enough:
“Happy Two Beers!”
“Happy Near You!”
Happy 2018 to all of you. May every moment of this new year be a gift.