"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, January 4, 2010

Brotherly Love, Part Three

I saved the best for last.

I was so excited about my choice of gift for my brothers, and had selected perfect personal gifts for my sisters-in-law, that I didn't think much about what they might be doing for gifts. In spite of all the flaws and wounds and near-sightedness in our relationships, this family knows how to give presents.

Last Christmas brought me a quilt sewn by middle brother, Mark, and an album of our grandmother's life created by baby brother, Geoff. Oldest brother, Frank, in past years has given generous gifts of weekends to interesting new places in the Pacific Northwest.

So as we sat in a circle in Geoff's living room I was completely focused on watching my brothers faces as they received the framed joy picture that was the labor of so much love, and then as Mark read the poem out loud. Their reactions were mostly about where the pictures came from, very little about the theme, and I was okay with that. I know how long it took me to be able to receive the gift of our parents' joyful smiles and did not expect my brothers to be able to absorb the gift quickly at all.

In the second round of opening (everyone was given one gift and then we took turns unwrapping our new treasures) I was handed Geoff's gift. A circle of angels meant to surround a candle. This is the second angel gift he and his wife, Lynn, have given me. One more and we'll have a tradition, and a collection.

What thrills me the most about angels from my baby brother is that they represent a bridge for us. My spiritual path is not quite the same as any of my brothers', much to their distress at times. In angels, Geoff has found a way for our paths to cross. Beings with wings who are bringers of light and hope and love. That I can embrace.

At the beginning of the third round, Mark handed Geoff and me identical little boxes. We were directed to open them at the same time. Geoff's box held two small stones (to represent coal for the youngest who was often the naughtiest). Mine held two pennies ("a penny for your thoughts" - which I've always been more than happy to share) and a reference to another gift box. Which we couldn't open until the next round.

Geoff opened his first. The note inside directed him to give his sister a big kiss, which he did without argument, and which I received happily. The note inside mine directed me to ask my brother to get what I was after. Which I did - politely. Mark went into the next room and came out with two huge identical packages, clearly frames of some sort. I wondered what pictures he had found to share.

No pictures. A Christmas Alphabet. Illustrated, matted and framed. Which I got to read aloud, but couldn't get past the beginning of the fourth paragraph. It made me cry so hard, Mark got up to hug me and ended up crying almost as hard as I was.

"The first gift in the story is actually a 'Daughter' (D). While we don't know his name, we know that Mary had a father somewhere."

In this last year Mark and I have talked a lot about what it means to be an unconditionally loved daughter - something I have no experience with. That hole (and my belief about why it existed) has been the force driving most of my life's decisions, for better or worse. Those conversations have been a huge catalyst in my coming to a place of peace and understanding, and becoming open to the possibility of a loved daughterhood that's been waiting for me all along.

The true gifts, of course, are not the framed letter, or the circle of angels, or the pictures and poem. The truest gift is the knowing, seeing, and honoring of each other, our common family history, and a greater Love that connects us - has always connected us - even when we feel lost, misunderstood, and outcast.

top photo from Flickr


Janna Qualman said...

That's incredible, Deb. Your Christmas sounds to have been exactly what they should be, filled with family, love, hope and the Spirit, in whatever form It takes.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

What wonderful heartfelt gifts!! Thanks for sharing!

M said...

Well, you did it again. You made me cry at work!

I love how you have weaved these three posts together...how we are weaving our lives back together as a family and the fact that you continue to record our family history (new and old) through your writing. Thank you for this incredible gift.



Wanda said...

This sounds like healed behavior. Love.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Wanda stole what I was going to say!

I love this: "In angels, Geoff has found a way for our paths to cross. Beings with wings who are bringers of light and hope and love."

And this: "The truest gift is the knowing, seeing, and honoring of each other, our common family history, and a greater Love that connects us - has always connected us - even when we feel lost, misunderstood, and outcast."

I think the three angels represent your three brothers encircling you, the light that brings them together!

Jessica said...

What a beautifully sweet Christmas! Thank you so much for sharing it. :-) It's so wonderful that you three were able to be together like that and share gifts.

Pam said...

I love the fact that, like your brothers, there are three angels in your gift that have the opportunity to bask in the glowing warmth of candle light.It sounds like a Christmas full of love and hope.Your gifts to each other are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

You got me! I am in tears.

colbymarshall said...

That sounds like you guys are just so good for each other. Nice to hear about so much love ;-)

kario said...

What a treasure you have been given to be a family. Despite your childhood, you guys are finding a way to give each other the unconditional love you all deserve and have missed out on. I truly believe that this is the way to realize your own needs -give and you shall receive in kind.

Love you!

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh, wow! What beautiful and thoughtful gifts you exchanged with one another. So often, gifts are merely a token of materialism. It was refreshing to hear of your family's traditions!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I am so disappointed we did not get to meet while I was in Portland - we talked about it so long, and since I was there 3 weeks, I thought for sure it would happen - all is not lost, though, because I will be back and back and back - maybe next trip the weather will be nicer and people won't be sick and holidays won't be holidaying *laugh* --- but to come all that way and miss your email (I was only online 2 times the entire 3 weeks!)