Last summer Chris and I were preparing to move into what I consider our forever home. He was commuting over an hour each way to work, so we started looking for somewhere that shorted his time in the car (saving his sanity!) that was also still within a reasonable time frame for me to get to and from the hospital. If we were going to look for a house, I insisted we think long term and try to settle somewhere we want to raise our kids. I wanted good school systems. (I was validated by our choice when in the past year our town was named one of the top 100 towns in the US to live and the school system one of the top 500 in the country- don’t ask me who did the ranking, I prefer the blissful ignorance of not knowing!). We found our home and moved last August, when I was in the first trimester.
At the same time, my parents were moving out of my childhood home, a house they inhabited for the past 25 years. They were packing up a home full of five kids worth of memories, furniture and junk so they could move into a smaller retirement home with no storage. They invited me up (their only child living within driving distance) to ransack their house for anything I wanted to keep. They were buying lots of new furniture so many things were free game. I came away with a patio set, a nice futon, a dresser, a huge old dictionary with stand and a piano (for a friend), among other things. We loaded up a U-haul and drove it home. As part of the clean-out we walked through the attic and I picked up things to keep, reminiscing in the process- an old wooden kids bench, wooden blocks, old clothes. I found boxes with old photos and letters, even boxes from my grandparents, containing photos of my parents, their siblings, letters they wrote from college. I kept them all. The idea of moving these things again once I got home stressed me out a bit, but I couldn’t imagine these things being thrown away. I made it clear I wanted to keep the family history stuff.
The following Christmas, when both my and Chris and my parents were well settled in our respective new homes, I was feeling nostalgic again. Chris and I got a real tree that year- we had two fake trees in the past and it seemed indulgent and wasteful to buy a live one, even though it was how I had grown up. But in this new house, whether it was the idea that this home wanted a live tree or he was trying to please me in an attempt to bring some joy after learning the baby I was carrying would likely die , Chris suggested we get a live tree. We cut one down with my cousin and hauled it home, decorating it with the ornaments we had. Most were Chris’s- his mother had sent a boxful of his childhood ornaments when she moved into her retirement home. I had a few more recent purchases, because my childhood ornaments still decorated the tree at my parents. When trimming the tree I decided I wanted to ask my parents for my ornaments when we saw them that holiday.
To my surprise and dismay, I learned all the childhood ornaments had not been kept in the move. My parents well decorated house now bore a tree with matching ornaments- appropriate for a house with no kids.
“You didn’t say you wanted them when you went through the attic,” my mom explained.
“It was June- I wasn’t thinking about Christmas!” I lamented.
But there was nothing to be done. Chris and I would have to decorate our tree on our own, his childhood ornaments making up the heft of our trimming.
Recently I had brunch with a friend, one well schooled on babyloss, as she coordinates the bereavement program on Labor & Birth at my hospital. One thing she does is makes little worry stones out of colorful clay. While I was hospitalized pregnant with Mabel, the chaplain stopped by and we had a nice chat. She left me with her info and a worry stone, one I recognized to have been made by my friend. I used that stone lots during that time and it even became my visual focal point when I was in the painful throws of labor. After Mabel died I never left the house without it, a mini security blanket. I was horrified during one of my early therapy sessions when I was faithfully rubbing the stone and it broke in half in my hand. “Is it a sign?” I woefully asked my therapist. Hearing this, my friend gave me two more, but I really just held onto the pieces of my broken one, not willing to let them go. One piece sits in my car and I recently have been rubbing it more frequently.
At brunch with this friend, she gifted me several things- including more worry stones- in carrot clay colors. But one of the best gifts she gave me was a set of carrots on hooks. My heart leapt when I saw them and I quickly told her the story of the discarded childhood ornaments. My relief was huge, knowing now I had something of my own to contribute to our next tree.
Have you been gifted something especially meaningful? What would be a great gift for someone to give you?