Wednesday, December 14, 2011

John's Gift

His thoughtful gift not only took me off guard, but it surprised me how much it meant to me. He met me in the kitchen, eyes bright and expectant, and ushered me to the festive gift bag and generous plate of cellophane-wrapped brownies perched on the counter top.

He helped untangle the mass of grocery bags from my arms while Basden chanted behind him, “Mom, he bought it with his own money!”

“Yeah, Mrs. TJ, I bought it with my money. I hope you like it.”

Seriously, he looked like a kid in a candy store. And his big grin looked just brilliant on his eleven-year-old face. With one child plinking away at piano keys in the foyer (yes, the foyer), a couple of puppies playing tag at our ankles, and a few more kiddos watching our exchange, John stood before me at full attention, arms extending the gift bag in my direction.

“Ok, John, I can’t wait to see what this is. I can’t believe you thought of me on my birthday, and went to all this trouble bringing a gift!”
I pulled out colorful tissue paper and found two homemade cards - one from John and one from his little sister, a couple of years younger. His sister’s was sweet, adorned with stickers and a happy birthday message. John’s was a little more masculine (unadorned) but his scrawled words caught my heart strings.

Regardless of what I would reach in and find, I’d already received his gift. The fact that John likes me is nothing short of a miracle. Yes, he frequents our home. A lot. And we all love him. He’s like a brother to Bran & Hud, and of course the girls as well. But I’m telling you, I speak to him like one of my own children, raise my voice with him right there, and he sees all the real sides of this mom. He’s seen me overreact and overcorrect. And then ask forgiveness because of it. He’s seen me respond to my children at the height of hormones, seen me throw a sloppy meal together in minutes, seen my disgusted reaction when I walk into a messy room. When I bark at my kids to bring in the groceries or firewood, his name is part of the roll call (and for the record, he works hard and happy - often an example for the Wilson kids). What I can mask or disguise for some, John sees it all.

And... he still likes me... the real me.

I kind of expect that from my children, my husband. But it took me back a bit for a neighbor boy to love me despite knowing the real, sometimes-harmonious but sometimes-dissonant me. He is at times shooed out of the house, we’ve said no to spending the night way more times than we’ve said yes, and he’s expected to live by our house rules when in our home. 

And yet he loves us.

Under John’s watchful eyes, I reached deep in the bag, and nestled in the tissue paper were a blue and gray knit scarf and matching gray gloves.
“I hope you like it, Mrs. TJ! ”
“John, it’s just gorgeous. Thank you so much, this means so much to me. This will keep me warm ALL winter.”
And believe me, it does.