I couldn’t decide if it should be an actual, tangible item or more of a lesson learned kind of gift, so I’m sharing both!
Here’s a list of a few things that I’m incredibly grateful for and the people who gave them to me (in no particular order).
• The gift of laughter. My dad has a great sense of humor and I know what little I have came from him. There is no medicine in the world like a good laugh, and I’m thankful Daddy shared that with me. I can also thank him for the gift of storytelling. He loves to tell a good story – especially it if makes someone laugh.
• Dishes and a legacy. One day when I was still in college, I’d stopped by my grandma’s place to have lunch with her. She took me into her kitchen, opened her dish cupboard, and pointed to the top shelf. “Would you like to have my china?” she asked. I practically did a little jig right there. I’d developed a love for antique dishes early on and Granny had a lovely set. Not only did she give me her china and her china cupboard after Captain Cavedweller and I wed, but I also treasure the story behind the dishes. My grandparents didn’t have a lot of money when they first married. On their anniversary a few years later, Grandpa presented Granny with the beautiful dish set. I thought it was the sweetest thing when I first heard the story from Granny. And she got such a look of love in her eyes as she shared about how much those dishes meant to her. They mean a lot to me, too.
• The gift of time. My Aunt Robbie has been a very special person in my life from the very start. Her birthday is the day before mine and she’s always been like a second mom to me. I can remember staying at her house a few times when I was little. She made me feel like there was nothing more important in the whole world than spending time with me. Aunt Robbie lavished the gift of time (and her love) on me and I’ll never forget how special she made me feel or how much it meant. She has always, always made the time to be there for me whenever I needed her.
• Recipes and secrets. My mom comes from a long line of women who take pride in their cooking. My grandma loved to cook and bake. Once in a while, we’d go to her house after church on Sunday and she’d feed us a feast with the best fried chicken and blueberry pie for dessert. In her later years, Grandma didn’t cook or bake as much as she used to, but she shared some of her best recipes and secret cooking tips with me one summer when I happened to be staying with her for a few days after she’d had surgery. Her recipe for carrot cake is Captain Cavedweller’s absolute favorite.
• The gift of entertaining. During my growing up years, it seemed like our house was the gathering spot for both sides of the family, especially at Christmas and New Year’s. We might have fifty guests join us to celebrate Christmas Day and my Mom seemed to handle it all with ease. As an adult, I know how much work she put into getting ready days before the company arrived and that she was usually up in the wee hours of the morning Christmas Day preparing for the onslaught, but she made it look so easy. From her, I gleaned the gift of entertaining. She taught me how to cook for a crowd, how to be a gracious hostess, and how to open your home with a warm welcome to others.
• The gift of adventure. I can thank both of my brothers for the gift of adventure. Although it sometimes seemed like I had three dads growing up, since my brothers were so much older than me, they also were a lot of fun. My oldest brother taught me how to make snocones with real snow and strawberry pop. He sparked my interest in all things western, taught me how to blast tunes over the radio, and made me wish I could visit some of the places he’d been. My other brother tried to teach me how to pop a wheelie on my motorbike (I think I still have gravel embedded in my shoulder), how to avoid crashing said motorbike, and how to have fun driving (I still want to drive the Mustang!). He often let me think we were conspiring about some big adventure or secret when I was little and needed a confidante. When I was with him, I always felt safe and protected. Despite his love of fast cars and speed, he’s also one of the most patient people I know. I didn’t learn that trait as well as I should have, but he did give a great example!
• The gift of elegance. Before she passed away, my dad’s youngest sister was well-known for her successful Mary Kay business. She even drove a pink Cadillac. It wasn’t the monetary success, though, that drew me to her. It was her elegance. She could be out in the yard grubbing in the dirt, and still look like a million bucks. In my teen years, I thought she was absolutely glamorous. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her after I was grown and I so wanted to be like her. In my eyes, she was the epitome of a lady… so poised and graceful, well-spoken and confident – yet she laughed a lot and had fun, too. She gave such a wonderful example of elegance and grace, one I still try to follow although most days I fall far short of the mark.
• A mentor. Back when I’d written just one romance novel and hoped I had the next best-seller burning a hole in my hand, I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. I’d been rejected more than 60 times by editors and agents. Fortunately, one of my very dear friends said she knew a published author and would put us in touch if I wanted to ask her a few questions. True to her word, she made the introductions and the author was so gracious and kind, giving me not only the encouragement I needed but suggested I look into self-publishing. I owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to my friend who made the introduction and to the wonderful writer who has become such a valued mentor to me.
• The gift of a second family. When Captain Cavedweller first took me to meet his parents, I had no idea what to expect. I remember being incredibly nervous. Would they like me? Would they think I was good enough for their son? Would they shove me out the door and lock it, with a threat to never return again? In truth, they were so excited to meet me, his aunt and uncle and grandparents were all at the house, too. They welcomed me with open arms and warm hugs. Instead of getting in-laws when we wed, I received the gift of a second family. And I am forever grateful to his parents for giving me the gift of their son.
• The gift of love. Since it is a secret to none, I’ll not get overly sappy on this one, but my beloved Captain Cavedweller has bestowed upon me gifts too many to count. He’s provided so many lovely, wonderful things for our home. He’s showered me with dozens of roses and sweet gifts I never expected to receive. He’s taken me on numerous adventures. He’s given me his time and attention when he’d rather be doing other things. The gift he’s given, though, that is most precious to me is the gift of his love. It’s unconditional. It’s unwavering. It’s sweet and passionate and beyond anything I could ever have dreamed. And he shares that gift with me every day. I am grateful beyond what mere words can express for his love and to be a part of his life.