“And be REALLY CAREFUL, Mommie, it’s REALLY BREAKABLE!” Alden
handed me the little package as if it contained a bubble still
swirling and pulsing with its break from the wand.
He’d saved it till last — till the cacophony of Christmas discovery was spent, and had quieted into this moment — time to bring out — “The Gift.”
“I picked it out ALL BY MYSELF,” he beamed, climbing up on my lap to help me open it. “It’s REALLY FRAGILE, so be careful!”
I quickly swung it out of the path of his flying foot.
He had just turned five. He might as well have been my soul.
A few months before, I had made him a little green tadpole costume
for Halloween, and we had gone trick-or-treating as toad and tadpole. Soon after that he became my Storytelling partner, performing Arnold Lobel and other classics for schools around the district.
As he settled onto my lap that Christmas, he looked up at me with a vibrant,
bursting anticipation — relishing my coming pleasure.
I savored the impetuous abandon of his joy, of his anticipation,
of his love for me.
The really fragile gift? That moment was for me. I remember it, and relive it, every time I use the little figurines that sit on my kitchen counter; Pepper in the happy green sitting toad, and salt in the silly frog lying on its side with its foot in the air.