It’s your 4th birthday today. What good luck that Mrs. Pickering chose such a spectacular craft project for her preschool class on this day.
The shiny golden paper that sits before you looks like treasure. It’s all you can do not to reach out and touch it. But, you don’t. You’re a rule follower. Mrs. Pickering said not to and you want to make her happy.
Finally, you get to trace and cut and use the much coveted paper punch to create the perfect memory of you on that day.
You love your tiny golden hands more than anything. As you wrap them carefully in green tissue paper, and use your best four-year-old penmanship to write “Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, Love, Melissa” on the tag, you are secretly wishing the gift was for you.
Instead, you present your hands of gold, your rule following hands, your quiet, shy, unsure hands, to your parents. And you hold your breath. Will they treasure them the way you do? Will they know how to take care of them? Will they put them in a special place where they will stay safe from harm?
Here’s what I can tell you now, from the perspective of your 47-year-old self:
You need to believe that they did the best they could. That’s the hardest thing to accomplish, but you’ll get there.
You were the easy child and so it was also easy for them to believe you were fine, just fine, with less guidance, less attention, less hand holding. Mostly, you weren’t. But don’t forget all of those other souls who reached out to you. Especially, Mrs. Molloy, your favorite teacher. She knew.
You had such huge eyes, they missed nothing. A lot of that stuff is just better left behind, even though some days it feels impossible to do that.
You wanted to fix it and you couldn’t. You still can’t, but it will all be okay. I wish I could have saved you from all that worrying.
Little girl that I was, I have a gift for you this Christmas.
Several years ago, your mom returned the treasured hands of gold to me. They were still in pretty good shape: the fingertips were curled a little and one thumb was taped back on, but they shined almost as bright as the day you wrapped them.
She had kept them safe, even though you worried about them.
Every year, I hang them on the tree, just like you did when you were a child. I always pick a special spot, where your hands will be noticed but not harmed.
This year, I’m ready. It’s time to give you the gift we’ve both been waiting for.
I’m taking your four-year-old hands down from the tree and holding them in my grown-up hands, the hands that echo the cliché “they look like my mother’s”.
It’s time for me to take care of you.
I won’t let go.
I know that’s all you’ve ever wanted.
Merry Christmas, Melissa.