An Unexpected Gift

My best friend and I don’t get to see each other during the week of Christmas. And it seems the last number of years we don’t even see each other the entire month of December with busy family schedules. We live in different Provinces. And sometimes that really sucks.

It especially does over the Holidays when you want to be surrounded by your closest friends and family. 

Norah and I have been friends for 38 years now. She has been ‘my person’ for 25 of those. I actually ache for her during this time … these two weeks that I seem to define as the Holidays. Sentimental fool that I am. 

Phone calls abound, but I want her physically close to me where I can hug her and cuddle up on the sofa with her, and surround myself with her presence – more than just her voice on the other end of a receiver.

This year, I think in anticipation of that time, she gave me my Christmas Gift early. It was no ordinary gift. When she handed it to me I was like a giddy little girl. It was an entire basket full of perfectly wrapped gifts. An Advent Gift she said. One present to be opened every day until Christmas, beginning December 1st.

I know this is the place where I’m supposed to say ‘it was just a gift getting to see her for 4 hours’ in the city where we met and had a quick lunch together, but the fact is that it WAS really exciting to be handed an entire basket of presents and be told they were just for me.

It’s Christmas and I am a Mom. Nothing is EVER just for me! I spend months making sure everything is ‘just for others’.

So here I am handed a basket full of pretty presents … one to open every day starting the first of December … you better believe I’m a giddy school girl at that prospect!

And because I know my best friend so well, I’m vibrating with anticipation because I know each gift was meticulously chosen with me in mind by someone who knows me like no one else. Now THIS is exciting shit!

So I drive home on a November day, after a long four hour lunch with my bestie, basket safely tucked in the back of the Subaru.

When I come through the door, basket in hand, my kiddos are home and they look up at the basket. They know I’ve seen Norah and are naturally expecting the basket to be the ‘family’ gifts that we always exchange. And of course those family gifts are in the back of the Subuaru too … but I am quick to inform them (with perhaps a cat-ate-the-canary smile on my face) that these are all ‘just for me’. AND that I get to open one each and every day until Christmas starting December 1st.

Oh.

They don’t say it, but you can see the wheels turning in their heads.

Just for Mom?

All those presents?

Oh.

So I sit my basket down next to the armoire in the living room. It’s only then that I really have the chance to take a good look at it. Each gift has a number on it. And the numbers aren’t just written on. They are fancy stickers placed on thick parchment like paper and placed on each gift. Every gift is painstakingly wrapped, and looking at them I would be happy to open just one. But I get to open 24! 

I get a twinge of worry that she has spent too much on me. But I know her and we are both really good at being reasonable over Christmas. She promised me she didn’t go over our usual amount – that it was like a long drawn out stocking. So I quickly drop that feeling of guilt and concentrate on my pretty present.

December 1st is fourteen days away. I’m like a little kid again waiting for Christmas Day. Only I don’t have to wait that long! Inside I’m a little embarrassed by how excited I am, but trust me that embarrassment disappears as the days go by and I’m run off my feet with Holiday to-do lists, and I really remember how much I do for every one else during the preparation of Christmas.

So there the basket sits. For fourteen days in the living room.

And then December 1st arrives. And what happens then, and over the next 24 days is a very unexpected side effect … and is, for me, and for my family, a gift in and of itself.

That morning I get up and come down stairs. It’s a particularly crazy day. I have a Board Mtg at work, Mark has a Volleyball Tournament, Megan has Piano and a test at school, Craig is away for work so I’m on my own. I’m running around making lunches, getting everything and everyone ready for another pretty normal day at the Wilkies. 

And then the kids look at me and say … with these excited looks of anticipation on their faces … “Mom!!!! It’s December 1st!!!!!! You get to open your first gift from Aunt Norah today!”

And I have to admit. I was a little taken aback at their excitement. Because this was not excitement ‘for them’ at all. They KNEW nothing in those packages were family related. Nothing for the minors in the family. And as for ‘their’ Advent ‘gift’, well – ever since they were young they only ever got those Advent Calendars that were like $1 from Walmart, with the dinky little chocolates (if you can call them chocolate) smaller than the size of a dime. 

So no. This wasn’t excitement for them. This was excitement they had for me. They were excited for me alone. They wanted to watch me open it, and had comments on what it was and what a great gift it was for me.

And so it went. Every day until Christmas Eve. They would excitedly remind me of my Advent gift for the day, and hoped I wouldn’t open it without them there.

And a few days into this selfishly lovely routine I realized what a beautiful side effect this gift my BFF gave me actually had.

For my kids got to see, in a very unique and somehow tangible way, how very much someone else loved their mother. And even better … someone not related to me. Someone who didn’t ‘have’ to love me. Someone who wasn’t related to them either.

They got to see the care and thoughtfulness put into something for their Mom … who is always the one ‘giving’ in their lives … always the one running and driving and doing and keeping it all together for them. They, as children, are always the centre of attention. They rarely get to see me receive anything except on days that ‘I’m supposed to’. And from someone I’m ‘supposed to’. No one ever does anything for Mom ‘just because’.

And that was pretty cool. For them to be so unbelievably excited just for ‘me’ each day; during a season that is so focused on them as children. For them to visually ‘see’ my worth through another’s eyes. To see how much time someone took to shop and wrap and prepare and think of ‘me’. For them to see me in a new way, and not just as a Mom.  

To see someone’s love for me in such a tangible and consistent way.

It was a very unexpected side effect of a wonderful gift … that was a gift in and of itself. And the entire experience, the gift and the side effect, made my Holiday that much brighter.

It was a gift I will never forget.

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