Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Your Favorite Gift
This time of year a lot of folks belly up to the pulpit, or step on a box or just write in their annual Christmas letter about the true meaning of the season. So I’m here to keep it real.
Our oldest has a December birthday. And so it seems that we open presents all. Month. Long. It’s a virtual parade of LEGOs, puzzles, books, games, you name it, and we’ve seen it. And those gifts really do mean something to that little boy born in a month wrapped in tradition and dedicated to something much more magnanimous than him.
His little brother, too young to understand the weirdness of a December birthday, too sweet to care about the clout of the newest video games, and too kind to give anything but his whole heart gave Cooper his favorite gift.
Back in November when all the stores had Halloween costumes and candy corn on clearance Mason happened upon a small plush monkey that was dressed in a skeleton costume. The monkey looked like Cooper’s Mo – the original lovie – but in costume. Mason found this hysterical and immediately said, “We should give this to Cooper for his birthday.”
Because it was only a dollar I agreed and tossed it in the cart. In the coming month Mason would occasionally tell me he was looking forward to Cooper’s birthday then he would lean into me, put a hand to his mouth as if to tell a secret, and whisper, “Because of that surprise, mama.” I enjoyed the conspiracy from the point of view of Mason, but I also fretted that his brother wouldn’t find it as awesome as Mason found it. After all Cooper is actually getting old enough to constrain his requests to very mature gifts – scooters, NFL jerseys, a new chess board.
Then with just a few days before the big day Mason busied himself at the kitchen counter drawing and writing cards to Cooper. Without any help at all he drew a stick figure of Cooper wearing a party hat emblazoned with a 7, and spelled out Happy Cooper. He also wrote another note that simply stated, “I love you, Cooper.” Then he folded them into small little squares about ½” by ½” and asked me for an envelope. Instead I found an old box from Valentine’s day.
The box sent Mason over the edge. It was pink (which I thought would make him reject it) but it had a monkey with a heart on it. He squealed with delight proclaiming it was perfect and put all the notes he had drawn inside. Then he patiently waited for Cooper’s birthday.
On the morning of Cooper’s birthday, we started with an early breakfast and present opening. Cooper tore through new video games, a CU shirt (I know, vomit), and some other things he had wished for including $35 cash. And then he came to Mason’s gift. Mason’s little heart was so filled with love his chest was visibly bursting. And I braced myself hoping against hope that at the very least Cooper would be gracious.
Cooper opened the box of notes and read them carefully. He smiled. He said thank you. He gave that monkey in the skeleton costume a hug. All the while Mason grinned from ear to ear. I felt it was a success, but I brushed my feelings under the rug along with all the other commotion of the day.
You know the routine: classroom treats, 27 kids belting out birthday wishes, special stickers from teachers and the principal, all a very big deal in the realm of 7. In the quiet at the close of a long day, however, when I opened Cooper’s backpack and unpacked the remains of his lunch and homework I found a booklet.
It was a book stapled together by his teacher. Apparently something she does for all the kids on their birthday. It was a journal of sorts. He was meant to illustrate and write about his day. On the page dedicated to “Your Favorite Gift” Cooper had drawn a picture of the monkey, the monkey box, and the teeny tiny notes with a huge message.
Every day my children remind me that while I created them, and endured the discomfort of carrying them around in my belly as close to my heart as a womb can be for the better part of a year; they have their own thoughts, their own hearts, and their own amazing lives. This is the gift I open ever year on Christmas morning, and the day after, and the day after that, and every day forever more.
PS -- In case you are wondering, Cooper is NOT in Boy Scouts. That shirt is a hand-me-down that he loves.