For years we spent Christmas Eve at friends of ours for a traditional seven fish dinner. Towards the end of the evening we would watch as their granddaughter Nicole opened up her Christmas presents. She beamed with delight as she opened up each gift and made the giver feel so special and so appreciated. I wondered how you teach that to a child.
Of course, you can’t. Some kids are just built that way.
Elena was one of them. Everything for her was just what she wanted. She couldn’t wait to wear the clothes or play with the toys. Each giver got a huge gift in return.
So today is Elena’s birthday and I’m looking for my gift. Equally hard for many close to us is the fact that they have already purchased their gifts for her. These presents sit in their closets as reminders that this child passed just before her seventh birthday.
What do I want for Elena’s birthday? Sounds selfish but I do have a little list. Mainly, I want her back. I know I won’t wake up and walk into her room to see her there. I know she won’t be perched on the counter when I grind the coffee. I don’t mean that I expect her to ever be physically present. But I still want her back and you can help.
I think of the crossing guards and the lunch aids and the teachers and the parents and the trash collectors and the people in the stores and all of the people that Elena paused to touch. Now think of the people in your life that you see every day and don’t notice. How many times has that person poured you a cup of coffee. Do you know anything about them? You don’t need to change forever but just for today, take a moment and choose one of those people who are a part of your life that you don’t know and give them a smile and talk to them a bit. If you’re one of our neighbors, you probably already do.
The other item on my list is stories. You can help bring Elena back to me by dropping us a line with a story about Elena that makes you smile. Here’s one that Maggie reminded me of yesterday.
At Christmas, Elena and Maggie each got a Chia (R) pet. [Incidentally, Maggie was very careful to note that I should use the letters (TM) with Chia. Looking at their web site at http://www.chia.com it appears that they use (R) and not with every instance.]
A chia is a clay figure of a character or an animal that you wet and spread seed over in areas that you want to grow hair. The grass or herbs that you grow look like the fur of the animal.
Carolyn, Elena’s aunt, had bought Elena a Scooby-Doo Chia Pet. Elena was delighted. She couldn’t wait to show her aunt how much she loved the gift. She took it out of the box and ran up to Carolyn and said, “I love Cheetah Pets.”
Carolyn was confused. She thought Elena was disappointed because she had gotten a Scooby-Doo shape instead of a Cheetah shape. “Oh honey,” she said, “we can exchange it for a different shape.”
Now it was Elena’s turn to be confused. She had told her aunt how much she loved her present and her aunt wanted to exchange it. “No,” she said, “Cheetah’s are my favorite.”
Carolyn was getting sadder by the minute. She’d specifically picked Scooby-Doo for Elena and she was insisting on a Cheetah.
It took a while for us to convince Carolyn that Elena thought she was saying “Chia” not “Cheetah” and that this gift really was exactly what she wanted.