The Gifts by Jewel Rink     

"   "You Can Build A House With Wood and Stone But Only Love Can Build A Home." The cursive letters of the all too common cliche hand on a delicate piece of framed canvas in my den.  Everyone who enters or leaves this well-travels room walks past those words but few actually see them.

At first glance, the unimportant 3" X 7" X 1" plaque seems out of place in this room that holds the hand carved German Cuckcoo Cuckoo clock, the richly framed family portraits, the antique cherrywood furniture, and the brass candlesticks.

But, I see this canvas frame and smile...

The girls should be arriving shortly. Each time before they come to visit from college; I call them a few days before they arrive. We have a lengthy chat and I assess what they want to eat and what they want to do.

I tell them to text me before they get in the car to drive home or before they board their plane.  I remind them to be safe and that I can't wait to see them and I love them so much.  

Today, their childhood rooms are clean, fresh linens cover their beds and a bouquet of bright flowers decorate each of their nightstands.

My oldest daughter should be arriving in the next few minutes.

Anyway, my teenage son sees me staring at the plaque and says with a pointing finger, 'Mom is that framed thing new?''

'Yes, I guess that's right.'

I continue, 'With each visit, there is a pattern, and it goes something like this; a few days before we set out on our journey, I get a call from Mom.  In the early years the conversation went something like this:

'Honey, when do you plan on arriving?'

'Mom, I will be there by 4:00.'

'Okay, I will have dinner for you. What would you like?'

'Anything is fine.'

'How about homemade pizza and German Chocolate cake.'

I smile, 'Yes, that sounds good.'

'Then, after dinner, we can play cards.'

'Mom, I hate cards. I always lose.'

'Okay, we don't have to play cards. we can visit and go from there.'

'You drive safe and call me before you leave town.'

'Then Mom and I talk about what foods I want in the fridge and everything else we are going to do. This is always a lengthy call.  Always, the message in between the lines is: "We are so excited you are coming! We are going to have fun and we love you!"

I pause and look to my son.

'You see, the calls have remained the same over time but we have graduated from Skim to Almond milk, from Kraft macaroni and cheese to steak and lasagna, from hot cocoa to hot tea and coffee and from Coca Puffs to granola and yogurt.' I smile as my son looks slightly amused.

I brighten, 'Hey, do you remember that upon our arrival, Mom and Dad are frequently waiting on the front porch and they greet us as we pull in their driveway?'

'Yeah, I think so.'

I pause, 'and, the guest rooms are clean with fresh linens, and there is always a little gift on our pillows. The gift is something like a little flashlight, a pair of fuzzy socks, a fun T-Shirt with a kitty on the front, or a little battery operated fan, to just name a few, and each gift always has a handwritten note on a small piece of white typing paper attached.

'You know, the little gifts have creatively changed along with your shoe size' I smile.

'Each of you kids has gotten gifts over the years too: large bouncy balls, small balls, little stuffed animals, little glass angels with your names painted on them, little footballs, hairbands, and on and on. Do you remember?'

'Yes, I remember boxes of chalk and bubbles and a whoopie cushion, too!'

I chuckle, 'I also remember in the early years, as I would leave Mom would slip me a $20.00 bill with a whisper, 'treat yourself to something, drive safe and call when you get back to your dorm.'

'For 30 some years this routine has varied but has remained the same. Time has traveled so quickly: from college, to newly married, to married with you three little kids to now, married with two dogs, one cat and now you three grown kids.'

I pause and fumble with the game 'You Can Build a House With Wood and Stone but Only Love Can build a Home' I turn the delicate priceless plaque over and pull out a little slip of paper that is tucked back in between the wood from and the canvas.

I hold the 2" X 2" slip of white typing paper and, with a gentle touch, I delicately spread it on my shiny granite counter and read the message:

Christmas 2013

Welcome Jewel!

Love, Mother and Dad

I look at my watch - smile - then replace the note ever so gently.

Once the canvas frame is back on the wall, I wink and motion to my son, 'Come on outside with me, Rachel should be here in the next few minutes!'

'Sure Mom.'

My teenage son picks up his football and we head on out to the front porch.  "  ~ Jewel Rink [website :]