Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The first Christmas after we became friends, you made sure there was one under our tree. You joked, half smiling at my husband, “Every lady needs a little blue box to open Christmas morning. And if Michael isn’t going to…” you trailed off sarcastically in your Alabama accent, topping it off with your laugh and mischievous smile that always makes me laugh with you. And every Christmas since, you have done the same – our new family tradition.
It does not matter what is inside your gift boxes, honestly; you give some much. I remember tearing up when I walked into the ICU reception area one of the times your husband was sick. “Only family allowed,” the nurse smudged, never looking up from the screen in front of her. You appeared from around the corner, wearing your usual uniform – a slightly oversized, printed and pocketed shirt, never tucked in but always dapper; jeans; and your white tennis shoes. “She’s my daughter,” you said without hesitation. “Um-k, sir,” she responded to you while handing me a visitor’s pass.
I had not worn the identity your words provided in over five years, and while hearing them didn’t dress me in the same way, they provided one that fit like a favorite sweatshirt, hugging me all day and offering the security and warmth of you.
I strive to offer you something even close to that feeling. While we may not be on each other’s family trees, you always feel like home.
When considering the material objects that have been in those little blue boxes over the last 12 years, the one I cherish most is the teacup-sized, porcelain box – its lid dawning a hand-painted butterfly floating above a scurrying ladybug. Inside, I don’t keep expensive jewelry or spare cash – not that I really have either to fill it with. It is where I keep small memories that always say I love you when I have a chance to finger through them. A plastic ring Elliott presented with pride on Mother’s Day two years ago. Tiny art Mike sketched in colored pencil when we first started dating. Two fortunes reading, “You are completely individual and unique” that Phil and I both received after a meal in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, making me laugh after an adventure of a meal. One of my favorite singer’s autograph reading, “Kerri, ticket for one free hot sauce from Jason Mraz “ that Jamie was daring and generous enough to solicit from him during a chance encounter. A small and slightly disfigured attempt at sculpture one of my freshmen students gave me on a random, rainy day in January. The butterflied box itself declares I have someone I can love like a father.
You always remind me, Johnny, of who I am, who you are, and what we can do and create for each other and ourselves. Thank you.