From the time the boys were little, I made sure they knew about and participated in every special person’s special occasion. For Christmas, I took them shopping and helped them pick out the perfect coffee mug for Papa, picture frame for Nanny, desk calendar for Dad, and baseball cap or Legos for each other. We would sit at the kitchen table together and color birthday cards for friends. And before Christmas- or birthday-week ended, I made sure they put their own personal mark (scribbles and stickers, early on; actual hand-written words, as they got older) on thank-you notes that went into the mailbox. I was hoping they would learn the joy that comes from thinking of others.
Twelve years ago, today, my mom, Dan and I flew from Oregon to Abilene, Texas, for Chris and Kelsey's up-coming wedding. As Chris was driving us from the airport, that day, he told us that it was Kelsey's birthday. I panicked. "Oh, no! It's my soon-to-be daughter-in-law's birthday and I don't have so much as a card for her! That's not a good start!" I was already pretty keyed up about the wedding and the prospect of meeting Kelsey’s family for the first time, so nervous tears were waiting just below the surface, ready to spring forth.
But Chris, who had, his whole life, shown moments of remarkable thoughtfulness, handed me a sack. Inside was a box, with a bow, that contained a little Boyds Bear figurine. Chris told us that Kelsey had a collection of them, but didn't have this one yet. He even had a birthday card for us to sign. I was so proud of Chris. He had learned the lesson well, sitting around the kitchen table, making birthday cards. And that day the role was reversed. It was as if he had provided the crayons and glitter and paper and helped us make something pretty for this special new person in our lives.
I don’t know if Kelsey knows this story or not, but after twelve years it’s probably time to share it with her. I hope she still has that little Boyds Bear, and that when she looks at it now it will have more meaning.
Kelsey, happy happy birthday! You've certainly made our lives fuller and happier.