The gift

I remember what you wrote but I came to find the book anyway, to read the inscription again.

I hold it in my hands and think about you for a long, long time.

You were the baby who was always smiling, the cheeriest toddler, until I had to launder your blanket. Then you leaned your head against the washer and cried.

You were the little boy in preschool who sat beside classmates on the playground when others overlooked them, excluded them. From the start you noticed the outcast, offered comfort, pulled for the underdog.

You were:

The middle-schooler who won an essay contest for writing about the person you most admire, Pa-Pa. You listened to his stories of service in World War II over and over.

The winner of the Principal’s Leadership Award at the end of your senior year.

The college student who started teaching the men’s Sunday School class at church.

The young man who returned to high school, where your Leadership Award still hangs in the front office, to teach Social Studies. Remember how, when you were setting up your classroom, you cleaned out a cabinet and found your old history exams in that stack of papers?

The teacher who taught your students to dance the Charleston—and who taught your own brother in AP U.S. History (your Dad and I weren’t kidding when we said, “Don’t even THINK about calling us in for parent-teacher conferences”).

The soccer coach who built the program and took the team to the State playoffs for the first and only time. 

An inspiration to so many kids. Their parents still tell your father and me.

—I remember it all.

Teachers don’t make a lot of money; you took an extra job at night.

I remember the call. You’d been taken to the hospital. You’d been assaulted. Emergency surgery, jaw wired shut, liquid diet for six weeks. Having to carry wire cutters if you should vomit, or you’d suffocate.

How you chose to visit that young man in prison, forgave him, became his friend.

How you adopted a rescue dog, reached a crossroads in your life, came back home, quit teaching, enrolled in seminary.

Almost immediately followed by your meeting the loveliest young woman and her little girl.

I think about all these things as setting sunlight spills through the blinds onto this book in my hands, illuminating the words you wrote to me that Christmas, years ago:

It is the first book I read that made me want to change the world.

You may not think so, but you’ve been changing the world since the day you first entered it, baby boy. One word, one breath, one heartbeat at time.

I’m quite sure you always will.

Maybe we should have named you Atticus.  

No matter, for things have a way of working out as they’re meant to. I watch you with your new loved ones. I marvel at the gift of it all, the sheer poetry of life writing itself a day at a time, in the most curious of rhythms—like how pages of a book that stirred your heart long ago should come to us, living and breathing.

In a young mom who loves the same book.

And in a little girl named Scout, crawling into your lap for a story.

32 thoughts on “The gift

  1. Fingers over letters
    over words over
    books over
    time

    what we find
    in the remembering
    sustains us

    the echoes
    of a simple gesture
    with ripples beyond
    our reach

    — Kevin, a poem in appreciation of this wonderful and powerful post

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My first thought was practical: “Wow, she had children many years apart!” But then I was swept away by your son’s accomplishments and your description of his spirit. I sense a gentle peace in him through your words–or is it your gentle peace and contentment with the wonderful man he’s become?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good close reading, Chris! There’s eight years between my boys (another story in itself!). There’s always been a gentle peace in my oldest, a loving and humorous spirit. I write out of joy to see him at this point, all that he is and has become – and that a real little girl named Scout should have just entered his life, knowing how the book affected him so deeply. Gifts all around. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I was completely engrossed in every word – -I don’t think I took a breath until the end. While the topic was heartfelt and moving the craft fit it perfectly. I need to go back and study it to fully understand what you did to make it come alive in this way. I printed it and plan to use it as a mentor. Thank you for sharing your heart and your craft today.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Tears and more tears. Such wonderful writing. I will go back and read it again and again so I can really appreciate your writing style. You put your feelings right out there. They jumped off the page and hit me straight in the heart. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was a harder post to write than I thought – I so wanted it to be right. I did pour my heart into it, beyond my usual level of comfort, in a couple of places. Your response is amazing and moving to me – thank you so very much!

      Like

  5. Oh my gosh, I’m crying. Dinner has to be made and the baby is probably eating food off the floor, but I couldn’t pull myself away. I feel like I just watched him grow up. So many touching and tender moments sprinkled with humor and poetry. The writing is beautiful. The parallels between life and book only brought to our attention because of you. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  6. This almost brought me to tears. As I just finished writing my slice for today about my son who is only eight months old I was daydreaming of what his life will be like. So seeing how your love has grown, changed, and been through so much as his mother was so moving. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How fascinating, that you’d just been thinking about your baby’s future and then read about my son growing up. Being in a writing community is so “magical” like that, sometimes – like Inspiration is whispering the same ideas into many of our ears at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “I marvel at the gift of it all, the sheer poetry of life writing itself a day at a time, in the most curious of rhythms.” I wrote this on paper and will treasure it at my writing place.
    Exquisite piece, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Did you relax your shoulders and sigh as you finished this piece? It is so very lovely and thought provoking. And so filled with your heart. Just as I am sure your son is. A big part of what makes him who he is, no doubt. So many accomplishments in his life’s journey already, but most of all so much depth in his old soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was spent when I finished – but also utterly grateful. Your choice of words to describe him – “old soul” – astounds me, as many people referred to him as just that even when he was small. Thank you for your amazing words. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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