My Aunt Meredith's Gifts

On Sunday morning while the kids were still busy with their art project, I rode the tram for an hour to another part of Brussels to pick up a package from Uganda. And then another hour back.

The only thing I knew I wanted in that package was an antique Jingle Bell, part of my eclectic collection of unique gifts from my Aunt Meredith. I had to get it.... the dried pineapple slices and banana chips that padded it were a welcome and treasured bonus treat for the whole family, but I traveled for two hours there and back to save the bell.

The bell's journey to reach me has been a noble one. The package was sent by a friend in Uganda, through a family friend who was returning from a visit in Kampala to her job with the ICC at The Hague in the Netherlands. She in turn gave it to a workmate who spends most of her weekends with her boyfriend in Brussels. This woman and I have been on the phone for 3 weekends trying to arrange a hand-off. 2 hours on the tram seemed like such a big chunk of day to spend.

Some of my most treasured "things" in my home - that move with me everywhere I go - are gifts I received from my Aunt Meredith. An antique Jingle Bell that has always hung on a door in my house, wherever I've lived (and that I left on door in the house I moved out of in Uganda). A black frame around 2 panes of plexiglass with 40 antique blue industrial glass marbles inside. The Victoria's Secret sleepshirt that I wore when I gave birth to all of my children (disclaimer: Ben arrived before I got a chance to put it on, but it was packed for the planned trip to the hospital and went on just after he was born!)

There's a lot on my walls that has a connection to Aunt Mer - a black and white blow-up of my grandparents on a motorcycle honeymoon in 1945 that she had made, a wood mounted shot of the lighthouse ont the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where my husband and I held one of our USA wedding celebrations.

My favorite Aunt Mer Gift story is the one about these paintings I found in an alley of old town in Stockholm when I was 18 or 19. The blue one spoke to me very strongly - had to have it. The other I bought just to match it so I'd have two. It wasn't til about 2 years later that I was sitting in my aunt Mer's house and saw the blue one on her wall. Of course it would seem familiar! I had seen it peripherally all of my life.

She had also bought hers in an alley shop in Stockholm - she remembered it well, and it sounded like it could have been the same one. But that would have been in the year I was born, when she was about 19. Her gift to me was to have them framed. I love them most because of their connection to her spirit of adventure.

With Aunt Meredith in my life, my eyes were open to the world at an early age. She took me without mom and dad to San Francisco when I was 5. She was a flight attendant then and through her job got my Grandparents standby tickets to fly around the world. She lived in Delaware for a while, had tons of friends in Seattle. She drove a VW bug for years in LA that she'd actually bought in Germany. Later on she even went to live in Alaska to work on the pipeline! Aunt Mer showed me that it was possible to find ways to just go and live places. And so I have.

The Jingle Bell, and the framed marbles that I adore, well... Aunt Mer's Gifts often contain surprising meanings that I didn't know I was looking for. At times they have been so unusual that I've never found a meaning for them! She gave me a crystal doorknob once, that I unfortunately didn't manage to save. I have to admit, when I first received the antique Jingle Bell, I had absolutely no idea I'd one day love it so much as to ride a tram for 2 hours to save it. But the truth is, I have missed it's jingle on the door. To me, it's those little things now - kitchen window light streaming through blue marbles, the jingle on the door - that help me create a portable sense of home for myself and the kids.

More often than not, there are cool stories behind my Aunt Mer's Gifts, and I appreciate her so much for the kind of thoughtfulness that she is capable of. I too aspire to give gifts that are rich with meaning, and I especially love giving the gift of new life experiences to the people I love.

Thank you, Aunt Meredith, for inspiring so much in me.

P.S. As I was finally on my way there, I started thinking about my Aunt Meredith's gifts, and what a good blog post they'd make. Then I thought up another title, and another, until I got out my pen, and wrote the 5 blog post titles down that I've been trying to think up:
  • Aunt Meredith's Gifts
  • Hunting for wildflowers with Grandma Jordan
  • Relationship Status: It's Complicated
  • My face2Facebook Tribes
  • The lost tribes of my world
(Thank you yet again, Aunt Mer, for unwittingly inspiring me to think about how to frame what I want to do with this blog. That's an item on the checklist underway - relief!)

Coming next - One of Aunt Mer's Gifts to me recently was my grandmother's collection of Tonala figurines. They too have had quite a journey this year - from LA to Uganda to Ethiopia... they finally arrived in Brussels about a month ago, and I love having them with me. Grandma bought them on a trip into Mexico by train with my grandfather, to see the wildflowers....