Friday, December 16, 2005

A few years ago, I wrote a story for Heartwarmers. It went around the world and back and I was deluged in over 3500 emails! (I still get a few every year and have already gotten one this Christmas from someone who found my story on the net somewhere.)
One of the emails was from Janet Matthews, an associate editor for Chicken Soup books. Long story short, an edited version of the following story was selected from over 2000 entries for publication in the "Chicken Soup for the Parents' Soul" book.....page 125. :-)
I was honored that a story dedicated to my Mother made the cut of 101 stories. It remains my greatest honor beyond being the mother of my daughter.

And yes, that is where the name of my blog came from...."From the Heart".

In honor and memory of my Mom, Mary,

Merry Christmas.......From the Heart.....*MY* heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FROM THE HEART

When I was 14 years old (same age as my daughter is today), my Mom and
I didn't have money for a Christmas dinner, much less gifts.
I knew she was sad about it and I was determined we wouldn't let it
get us down. Homemade gifts are nice but I wasn't very imaginative and too
broke for supplies. I decided to give my Mom something I treasured myself
-- the one nice piece of jewelry I owned, a gold cross necklace.
I cleaned it, made sure there were no knots in the chain and wrapped
it in the prettiest paper I could find. I was so excited, I couldn't wait
for her to open it.
Single moms have it hard (as I know first hand now) and I really
wanted to see her smile. We always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve night
and that afternoon, I could wait no longer.
I asked if we could "have Christmas" early. I anticipated that
Christmas more than when I knew I was getting a lot of nice gifts. I
didn't expect to get anything that year. It was about giving.
I handed her the little box, hugged and kissed her and wished her a
Merry Christmas. I waited anxiously for her to open it but she just sat
there with the box in her hands and looked at it.
I remember the look on Mom's face was a mixture of sadness and
serenity. She knew her greatest gift to me was her love. After what seemed
a long time, she looked at me and said, "I have something for you too."
She reached into her pocket, pulled out another small box, placed it in my
hands, and told me although it was not much, it was filled with love.
I was quite curious and little scared. I knew money was tight and
hoped Mom hadn't spent money on something we couldn't afford.
There was a little velvet box inside and when I lifted the lid, there
was a tiny ring with a diamond chip in the center. In a note, she told me
the ring was 23 years old, she hoped it brought me good luck... and "I love
you."
I got a huge lump in my throat and looked at her. She smiled and told
me it had been her wedding band from my dad. It was now mine. I slipped
it on my finger and hugged my Mom.
She opened my gift and when she saw the necklace, big tears filled her
eyes. She asked me to put it on her. She held the necklace and told me
she thought it was our best Christmas ever. I could only nod my head in
agreement.
This Christmas, I give thanks for Mom and treasure every memory we shared.
You see, my Mom has advanced Alzheimer's disease and no longer knows
me. But I look at "our" ring and remember her gentle, wise spirit and give
thanks God blessed me with her.
But that's not the end of the story.
Our home was burglarized four years ago. One of the items stolen was
that little ring. I had left all my jewelry at home for safekeeping
because it was Memorial Day weekend and I was going to the lake. I was
totally heart broken when I found out the ring was gone. Of course, so
were her diamond rings, my wedding band, engagement ring, etc., but it was
THAT ring I grieved for the most.
I wrote a letter to our local paper and begged whoever stole it to
"PLEASE return it by mail anonymously."
A few weeks went by with no response and then one day a police
detective showed up at my door. He held out a kleenex and asked me to
identify the item inside.
It was my ring! I have never found out where or how he got it but it
remains on my finger to this day.
So as we all go through the holidays, let us remember it's what we
give from the heart that holds the most value.

-- Nancy

Copyrighted 1999 / Not to be republished without written permission from the author.

4 comments:

Kali said...

This is such a beautiful, heart warming story...thanks for sharing ~ it has brought tears to my eyes.

I also wanted to say that your home looks like a Christmas wonderland ~ so festive!

Wishing you a Merry, Merry Christmas :)

~Nancy~ said...

Oh thank you, Kali!
It means so much to me when my story touches a heart. My greatest joy would have been if my Mom had been able to enjoy it. I read it to her but I will never know if she heard it or comprehended it. She left us this past February so I believe she is finally able to know my story.
Merry Christmas to you too!

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Jerri said...

Nan, I came to your blog to encourage you to write more (I'd already read your most recent entry about being a terrible blogger and a few others) and found this story.

After reading this, it's more clear than ever that you must tell your stories. Our untold stories will wrap themselves around our throats and strangle us if we let them. I know in my bones that you have many, many untold stories.

Write them, Nancy. If they're anything like this one, they will light the path for other mothers and daughters and people everywhere. And telling them will lighten your heart, too.

Only yesterday I realized (with the help of a dear friend) that my stories all have the same theme: the search for love. Oh, the prices I've paid for it and the joy I've received from it.

I've seen the photos. You are a beautiful woman. There are prices to be paid for that, too. And for loving and raising a child alone. Keep writing. The world needs to hear your stories. So do you.

jerri

ps--My unexpected guest delivered to me a truck-load of vintage and antique things I had stored in his barn. We share a love of flea markets and interesting stuff.