People have been giving gifts to each other since the dawn of time. Gifts were given to tribal leaders as a token of respect. In biblical times the three magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus as a blessing for a wonderful life. Plates of fruit are given to deities by Hindus as a way of pleasing the gods. Giving gifts is a form of expressing one’s love, respect, and affection to another. And boy, are gifts big in my family.
Two days after my daughter accepted Dan’s proposal of marriage, Amanda’s grandmother, the matriarch of our family, arrived from Florida. I was so excited to see her as it had been four months since I had visited Diana in her St. Petersburg home.
I miss my mother, and at times feel gypped that we don’t have daily contact; that I’m not just a golf cart ride away from her like my brother and sister are. And now that she is in her 88th year, it concerns me every time we say goodbye, especially when she hugs me hard, and whispers that I am her darling baby, and how proud she is of me, and that I made her life rich, to the fullest. My mother always makes sure there will be no regrets of not saying a last-something-wonderful to each other, should she die before the next time we see each other. Creepy, but practical, and so my mother.
So yes, I was excited to see her, and she to see me, but what she really wanted was to meet Dan, the young man who would marry her precious Amanda. Amanda, the first child of her “darling baby,” had always held a special place in Diana’s heart.
A girl was what my mother wanted me to have, and when she got the phone call confirming she got her wish, Diana was on top of the world! Perhaps she saw so much of me, her baby, in my baby. “Oh, I’ve already done this,” she exclaimed when she scooped the tiny bundle into her arms. “She looks exactly like you! Truly!” From day one when my mother laid eyes on Amanda, there was an undying attachment.
And it was difficult when we moved to Pennsylvania, and my parents to Florida. But we always made the effort to see each other a couple of times a year. Of course we talked all the time on the phone, so Diana kept up with all the goings-on of her grandchildren.
There had been several boyfriends for Amanda along the way, some we really liked, some were only okay. But my husband nailed it when he took me aside after the first night of meeting Dan and said, “He’s the one, dear.”
Early in the relationship, Mom had peppered me with questions: “What’s he do for a living? Did he go to college? How are his parents? What do they do? Do you like them? How are his teeth?”
Yes, teeth are very important to Diana. Always have been.
Not long after Dan was exclusive with Amanda, my mother and I Skyped as Andy was in Florida on business and he decided to introduce her to that technology. She and I were talking and in walked Amanda and Dan, coming home from a date, his herculean arm wrapped around her waist.
“Kids, come say hi to Nan. She’s Skyping with me,” I shouted down to them. Amanda skampered ahead of Dan and plunked in front of the computer.
“Hi, Nan! How are you? Dan, this is my Nan!” she announced excitedly.
Dan stood behind her and crouched down so he could see her. “Hi, Nan, it’s nice to meet you.”
Diana adjusted her glasses and leaned into the screen so that our monitor was filled with her head as she studied Dan. She lifted her chin, as if finding the correct area to look out of her trifocals.
“Make him come closer. I can’t see him very well,” she demanded. He obliged by leaning in toward the monitor of the computer. She continued to study him. Amanda and I looked at each other, unsure of what to expect.
“What is in your ears? Earrings?” she queried.
Dan shyly answered in the affirmative, that indeed he had earrings.
After a bit of a pause, she leaned back and said matter-of-factly, “I like them. My son has earrings too. I think they’re sharp.”
They were off to a good start, but it would be another 10 months before they would speak again.
“You’re going to love him, Mom,” I told her. “Wait ‘til you meet him! He’s coming tonight, with his parents!”
“Well, I need to freshen up my lipstick then.”
Lovely Nan (a name she gave herself) epitomizes traditions, rules, and propriety. She’s a stickler for manners, appreciates a door being held for her, and will bark back a retort when something is disrespectful or unkind. She stands her guard. She has scruples, and you will most certainly know when she disapproves. But no matter what, she will always have her lipstick on!
At 7:30 on the dot, punctuality being another trait that pleases Diana, Dan and his parents arrived at the front door. He walked right into the living room where Diana was ensconced on the couch.
“Hello, Nan,” he said as he leaned in to kiss her.
“Well, there you are, dear boy.”
“These are for you,” he said, and then presented her with a delicate chalice-like vase of mercury glass, looking like an ancient treasure, gleaming in between the shine of the silver and the clear glass. Delicate magenta roses, the palest of green hydrangeas, and white gardenias, perfumed the room. Amidst dark green, glossy leaves and Bells of Ireland, a fragile silver Christmas ball sat perched on the lip of the vase.
It was the perfect gift to give to our tribal leader.
“They smell heavenly,” my mother cooed, as she nestled her nose into the blossoms. “Thank you, my darling. They are glorious! Now come sit by me so we can get to know each other.”
She patted the leather couch signaling him to join her, welcoming him into her family. She looked up at him, eyes twinkling and said,” Your teeth are truly lovely. Truly.”