I got a package in the mail today from my daughter Rhianna. She had called to tell me it was on its way, a smile in her voice as she described my possible reaction to whatever fun thing she had sent. Rhianna has a knack for giving the perfect present for oddball me, so I was excited. Only two other people alive know the weirdo soul of me and give gifts accordingly. One is the man I love, the other is my highly artistic librarian friend. He gave me a wishing tree for Valentine's Day. I gave him a pink skull candle holder. The librarian periodically gives me the most hilarious and/or fantastic t-shirts in existence. I gave her a dog-eared pulp fiction crap novel about a damsel in distress nurse with large breasts. Found it at a garage sale. As for Rhianna, don't get me started on the avalanche of strange presents exchanged over the years. When she was sixteen, I put a large dragon-handled knife in her Easter Basket, right beside the purple Peeps. My friend Captain, who was visiting for the holiday, remarked, "What the hell kind of mom gives her daughter a gigantic KNIFE in her Easter basket?!?" Rhianna replied, "A cool one." Soul to soul, my daughter, and my two marvelous others. We have all loved the strange and conventionally unappreciated things in this world. So when the package from Rhianna sat perched on my front step when I got home today, I did a little hop for joy, grabbed it like a line backer, and ran into the house.
I opened it with my roomie. Inside were two packages; one for me, one for her. She was stunned by Rhianna's generosity, but that's Rhianna. We tore open the little presents inside the gift bag and squealed with glee. Rhianna had visited from the Midwest last fall, and remembered something my roomie had mentioned two things she'd like to have. Both wistful musings resided inside her gift bag.
Mine were straight from heaven. Three little candles depicting the old Universal Monsters: Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman and Frankenstein were inside one package. The second housed a coffee cup with a white brick background and the scrawled red letters: Pink Floyd The Wall. I shall sip some sweet sweet tea from that cup. Chamomile, perhaps. The third present had me bursting into tears. It was a DVD set of the BBC masterpiece Planet Earth. I watched that series with Rhianna when we both lived in the same town, and she used to joke about my floods of tears for every episode. I was just overwhelmed by the beauty in each chapter. There was a little note on the side of the gift bag that simply read "Mom" with a little heart drawn beside it.
It's moments like this when I feel the incredible gift that is my daughter most keenly. Not just that she gave me a present, but the fact that she chose the absolutely perfect present for her strange, creature feature-loving mom. That she knows me so well, loves me that much. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by people being awful, by our history of people being awful, that we just sort of compress into blobs from the gravity, too heavy to lift our lips in a smile. All that can be brushed away on the gossamer sweetness of an ugly little candle.
Life has a way of tickling us out of our sadness sometimes, even when we fight the very thought of heart-warming joy. We simply have to pay attention, value ourselves enough to be ticklish (it takes time but is worth the effort) and allow a giggle or two to escape. I cackled like a happy Tex Avery witch when I opened my gifts. My lovely, ridiculous, magnificent, unexpected gifts. From a daughter who loves me. Three years ago, I would have smiled tearfully and thought only of how much my son hates me. Time heals all wounds, even if they ache forever when it rains. That's why sunshine like today is so important. Emotional vitamin D, every bit as important as what we feed our fleshy envelopes. If you're in a dark place right now, my friends, don't despair. Fight the gravity and the ghastly misery by dragging yourself into a patch of sunshine. The world of thick depression can be chipped away bit by bit if you just keep at it. Like a sculptor working to free beauty from the stone, you'll be amazed at what a masterpiece you are inside. Because you are. All of you. Masterpieces. Just keep on chipping and you'll find it. Believe.