I recently changed the cover on my ironing board. Well, actually I recovered the old cover. The cover my mother put on it when she gave it to me 36 years ago. On my birthday, ten days before I was to be married. I puzzled then over the gift. Somehow not the sentimental type of gift I imagined I would be given just prior to such a life changing event. But I kept my questions to myself, accepted the gift (graciously I hope) and got married. And I even did the ironing. But recovering that old ironing board recently propelled me back to my mother’s kitchen and that day in August. Whoosh, like a time machine.
Gifts can do that to us. And at this time of the year when gifts are such an integral part of the celebration of Christmas, we can be riding a roller coaster of memory and emotion daily. That may be one of the reasons we all hit the mall, and the internet. Not so much trying to buy love or win the best gift contest. But rather, trying to connect with our family and friends and earn that place in their memory. A special place where it is not the gift that is valued but the relationship, yes the thought.
Have you ever given someone the perfect gift? The one you know hits all the right notes in your relationship? Have you ever been present when someone else gives the gift and witnessed the look on someones face that says “This is just it!”
Maybe. Or maybe like me unwrapping that ironing board, and the cover my mother put on it you received the perfect gift and didn’t realize it for quite a while.
I want to be clear. I am not a regular iron-er of clothing. I love permanent press as much as the next person. I iron only sporadically. But I don’t remember any other birthday gift I received that year. And I never iron without remembering my mother. I can see her ironing in the living room, there’s a game show on the television. She works her way through my father’s dress shirts, the sheets, my own cotton dresses. I see her, hear her voice (correcting my ironing technique sometimes) every time I haul that a board out of the closet.
Last night as I walked by my Christmas tree one of the ornaments caught my eye. It was backwards. A simple muslin square with a holly wreathe and a red bow. The design did not show so I re -hung it. Whoosh. Time travel. The ornament in question was given to me by my college roommate. She gave it to me the year my husband and I bought our first home. She had come to our Christmas party and she brought a set of or muslin ornaments to give me. I remember I asked her if she had made them. “No, I just liked them. Saw them on vacation, and picked them up.” That was 30 years ago. This year no one had any idea she would not make it to Christmas. She passed away in early spring. We had lived together our sophomore year. She stood up with me at my wedding. She had given me other gifts I’m sure. But it was that Christmas tree decoration that propelled me to that Christmas long ago. To her smile. Even to her voice.
I am sure her sisters, brothers husband and son, will have similar experiences this Christmas. I hope they’re comforted by the memories of their own time travel. I hope her other friends, of which she had so many, will also be reminded . Of her voice. of her smile. Of her ability to sing the entire score of “The Sound of Music.”
That’s one of the gifts of the season. The connection we feel to those so special to us in our lives. Our parents, a dear friend, gone but not ever forgotten.
That’s what the unexpected perfect gift can bring us. Someone once said, Christmas is a time machine. The rushing, the noise, the wrapping is just background noise. Listen carefully. It’s a carol worth enjoying. I’m just say’n.