I wrote this post 3 years ago, and many things have changed. Children have grown, new loved ones have joined us while others have gone on. Mama went on ahead of us last year, though we still feel her near, see and hear her in our hearts and in the faces and voices of loved ones who remember her with smiles and laughter.
But yesterday, Christmas Eve, this post kept surfacing in my mind, so I wanted to share it with you again. The Magi, as you all know, were the three kings who brought gifts to a baby in a manger in Bethlehem ~ spices and incense and gold, the story goes. But the true gift, symbolized by those and the ones we give to each other, isn’t one that can spoil or be used up or melted down.
May you be blessed by the true gift of the Magi, today and every day of the year.
Today is my beloved’s birthday, and this year, for the first time in a long time, I’d bought something to give to him on his birthday specifically for his birthday. Not that we don’t buy each other things, but up until recently we felt we really couldn’t afford to give each other birthday, anniversary, christmas gifts etc.
But this year, I ordered some things for him online (which will get here a week late because somebody left it until the last minute ~ hmm, now who could that be?) and went to the mall to pick up a couple of other gifts for him, a chore that was lightened considerably for me (I hate going to the mall) and made much more fun by having some of my girls along.
So this morning, we woke relatively early for what is often the only day of the week we get to sleep in, and he got up and went to make the coffee as he usually does. I slept for a bit longer, knowing he likes at least a few minutes to himself when he gets up in the morning, and because I wanted him to think I was only making the bed and whatnot while I folded together his sweatshirt and the bob marly tee I’d gotten at the mall, and wrapped a bright ribbon around the “package” they made, tucking a new lighter I’d gotten him under the ribbon.
As I came down the stairs with it, he said good morning, with his back to me (his computer faces the stairs and he was on it), and I said good morning and how good the coffee smelled. Then, do you know what my dear love said he wanted for his birthday?
“Today is my birthday and I want to make one birthday request,” he said, still not looking at me.
I said “What’s that, my love?” with a smile in my voice as he turned and saw the gift for him in my hands. He frowned at me, then saw the lighter tied into the bow and laughed (it’s a joke between us how he’s always stealing my lighters ~ and then losing them).
But after he’d opened his gift and said thank you, he said: “but you know what my real birthday wish is? Next payday I want to put away $100 toward your iPod (that he’s planning to buy me for Christmas). I don’t want to get to Christmas and have you decide there’s some reason we can’t afford to get you an iPod.”
A legitimate worry, because it’s a bad habit of mine (or it used to be) to buy things they want for people I love and then (since I paid the bills and handled the money and therefore knew “better” uses for it) basically deny them the same pleasure because whatever it was was “too expensive.” It’s a habit I learned from my mama, who still does it to this day, and one, I’m sorry to say, I passed on to some of my children. I wish I had known better before, and I hope they learn better before their little ones are old enough to start doing the same.
I say that because I also woke up with the sadness and worry, which is a constant thread that lingers behind everything else that takes up my days, about a very sad situation that’s going on between two people I love. A large part of the problem is that one of the two sacrifices most of the things that one wants and some of the things that one needs, even things that are medically necessary, for the other and their children, while the other does not think to do those things until it’s perhaps too late, and perhaps worse, doesn’t even acknowledge the sacrifice.
Now, I didn’t cut off my hair to buy him a fob for his beloved pocket watch, and he didn’t sell his watch to buy combs for my hair, and perhaps it’s just because the holidays are coming up, but it made me think of the O’ Henry story, this modern day gift of the magi: that my love’s first thought on his birthday was of something he wants to give to me.
Yes, parents sacrifice for their kids, that’s part of loving your children and teaching them to do the same when they grow up and have kids of their own. But another lesson children need to see and internalize to be happy in love when they’re grown is this: that lovers who truly love one another not only sacrifice for each other, but each also thinks of the other’s needs and wants first, and in so doing, shows that he or she loves the other more than him or herself.
That is the true gift of the magi.
Here, this morning, it’s grey with the promise of snow in the color of the sky, or perhaps just of a cold misty-rain like we had last night. Either way, I’m off to look up the showtimes and ticket availability for Harry Potter today, and then to do one thing and another before we go.
I don’t know what it’s like where you are ~ but I hope that inside, at least, it’s bright and warm.