How the Gifts Arrive
By Mike Kleiman
Buying Valentine’s Day flowers for my eight-year-old son is always terribly difficult. There never seems to be an arrangement suited for a young boy that also expresses profound parental love. My heart is naturally drawn toward the pink, red and yellow flowers but they certainly don’t speak the same way to my son. He’d be more satisfied with an arrangement involving a monster truck. I look at each flower arrangement that touches my heart and I think of my son; would he like this, does it shout-out his name? Most of them don’t shout-out his name so I pick something bright, sunny and cheerful...
Picking a balloon will be far less draining than the flowers. No other object better represents a child’s spirit than a helium balloon. Helium balloons - happy and fearlessly dancing excitedly above our heads - lost in an imaginary world. They bounce and sway and play innocently above our world while yearning to be set free - to fly as high, as high can be. Helium balloons come in all shapes and sizes and they are so much like our children. Selecting a balloon is easy - they all work.
Buying his valentine card tends to be a repeat of the flower episode with an added emotional twist. The loving poetry strikes emotional surges in my heart and throat. I desperately struggle to suppress my sentiment but my eyes threaten to announce my secret. The urge to become disconnected is overwhelming; like a marathon runner whose body conspires for a rest, I feel the overpowering need to settle for the next card. But the card must be true. I have to find the right card. I have to stay together long enough to find the right card.
The truly difficult quests are now behind and I just have to decide whether to get a gift or not. I’ve given him one every year since he was born so it just wouldn’t feel right to stop now. He’d love something electronic but I don’t want to buy anything too elaborate. I truly can’t endure another difficult decision so I settle for a teddy bear like I did the previous year.
Standing in the checkout line with the other parents always threatens to destroy my delicate façade. If I actually allow myself to connect with them, to think about their love, to envision them giving these gifts to their children; I will definitely explode in an uncontrollable emotional meltdown. To sidestep this catastrophe, my mind has to lock into a mantra - pay the bill and get to the car; pay the bill and get to the car... I get the balloon safely into the car and prop the flowers so they won’t tip. I don’t need to sign the card until I’m with my son. That’s the way we always do it.
The shopping trauma transforms the drive into a complete blur. I go into a trance and rely on my mental autopilot to safely deliver me to my destination. I arrive physically intact and am relieved to be alone because I desperately need solitude to salvage my senses. The first thing I do is tidy the place up a bit. Then, I arrange the gifts. I place the flowers on the ground and make sure they won’t easily tip. With the balloon fastened to the teddy bear’s wrist, I nestle him near the flowers leaning him comfortably back. There’s a bench near my son where I sign the card.
An eternity of extreme emotions passes as my face goes from lapped hands to the sky and back to my son. I search for the words from so much to say... there’s so much to say. Emotionally drained into a calm, I prop the card upright on the slab and touch a kissed finger to his picture, which is forever sealed on his stone.
When you see the gifts adorning the stone fields, please know, “this is how they arrive”.
February 01, 2002 (v1.4)