Christmas, and other, Gifts
So here we are on December 22, and my last post seems a little naive right now. Two days after I wrote that, 20 children and seven adults were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, and the murderer himself committed suicide. Hard to feel optimistic in the face of that much death. But, it was a reminder to everyone else that tomorrow is not guaranteed, a lesson we Gold Star families have learned all too well. It is true that we (for the most part) knew that our loved ones were at risk, unlike the families in Newtown. It is also true that we had to believe they would be coming home or we would have lost our minds worrying about them. So, with the children and with Thomas in mind, I will tell a short story of a Christmas gift.
When we moved to this house in August of 1993, my kids felt terribly uprooted. Even though the distance was not far, our new suburban home was in a very different kind of neighborhood, we had changed counties and school districts, and everyone had to make new friends. Nine years old, Thomas took it particularly hard, though he did seem to make new friends pretty readily. Still, I knew he was not very happy and so when he asked for a jeans jacket for Christmas, and not much else, I made it my mission to get him one.
There was no internet shopping 19 years ago (or at least none that ordinary people could access) and this jacket proved to be elusive. I don't remember the details of my search now, just a general feeling of anxiety and desperation as time went on and I failed to find one. Finally, finally, I tracked one down in the right size at Kids R Us. Unfortunately it was about $45, which seemed like a lot to me, house-poor as we'd become. Still, it was pretty much all he'd asked for and (I consoled myself) it was sturdy enough to be worn by his little sister and brother too. I stood in line to pay and must have been chatting with the lady in line behind me who I remember looked appalled at the price of the jacket. I bought it anyway of course and he loved it and wore it.
Truthfully, I remember few of the other Christmas gifts we gave him over the years. I knew that this one was important and that we had only one chance to do it right. We did not get many opportunities to give him the things he wanted when you think about it, and now when I reflect on that lady looking so disapproving I am grateful that I listened to my heart and spent the money, even if it stretched our budget painfully. We don't know what will happen tomorrow so let's give a little happiness today. Not that happiness always comes in the shape of things, but sometimes in what the things stand for.
As Thomas got older, he became a bit of a clotheshorse. After he died, we discovered that he had two leather jackets. One we gave to a friend as a memento, and one his little brother wears from time to time.
I will write about my trip to Arlington with our wounded warrior another day.