The apartment brought with it many benefits, but like most things in life, also negatives. Not having access to regular electricity was quite a draw back. You don’t think about things until they are no longer available and of course electricity is a basic necessity and something we were used to. I always made a mental list of the benefits that we had and in this case it was location near the school, clear windows to the outside and a clean, new place to stay. So, I kept my daily routine and tried to have fun with the kids. We laughed and joked and made forts out of the pads that were used for couches. The kids spent hours playing and for years to come, made their own games and entertainment out of little to nothing.
I received weekly letters from my parents that were a blessing, in addition to the call cabin conversations here and there. One day, like any other day he went out in hopes of finding his dream job, visited friends until the wee hours and then returned home, but also returned with a gift! On this special day he brought with him a surprise, a box. A box with packing tape carefully wrapped around each corner, familiar letters that made my heart race. The kids gathered around and we all stood quite amazed at this new addition to the apartment. During the long, hot summer we rarely went out except for the occasional quick trip to the mini market or a drop off at a park during prayer time, so anything new brought a great deal of excitement to our lives. It was neatly wrapped up, a brown, ordinary box, taped and sealed with a precision that could only mean one thing, Grama! Although the girls could not read they loudly and in unison shouted, GRAMA!
I told my children as they stood gazing at this treasure, let’s open it. As children do, they started tearing tape, opening flaps and quickly it stood offering up new possibilities for hours of fun during a long and hot summer. My mother as always, took care to find personal items for each child, a baby doll for Foof who was now 2 years old, a craft set for See See who had just turned 4, complete with beads and sequins and all of the glimmering things little girls love. For the baby, several outfits, toys and a baby book to record memorable milestones.The boys were thrilled to have games, books and action figures. My parents had been the sole providers of clothing for the past 5 years and so of course several outfits for each child. A pink journal, lightly scented lotions, soaps, pajamas and candy for all of us. She always thought of him and sent him nice work pants, a dress shirt and tie. This box although an ordinary cardboard box, held with it much more for all of us.
As night fell and the lights went out I promised the kids we would return to the box in the light of day. It was hard to get them settled in for sleep because the thought of toys, games and the grandparents they had left behind were the topic of chatter for an hour or more. I gathered up the laundry for the early morning routine and placed it in the kitchen near the washer, I did dishes and anything I could before total darkness set in. I sat on the couch pad and rested in the glimmer of the light from the street lamps. I sat thinking of my mother and father and the box. Memories drifted back to summers I spent walking through our neighborhood to the community pool, riding my bike with friends and rolling down the big green summer hills in the backyard. We camped in our tent and then they bought a trailer, we made campfires, hiked to the swimming area, roasted marshmallows and then as teenagers angrily objected to these trips! It was all a blur now and he snapped me back into reality when he entered the dimly lit room. He commented on the box and how nice it was of them to send it. What a nice idea, although his pants were too long and his tie too brightly colored, but all the same, a nice thought and well received. He sat next to me in the dark and asked me what I had received from the box, my heart sank as I knew what was next. He spoke for 10 minutes or more about the lovely gifts of perfumed lotions, soap and candy that he knew I didn’t like and never used, about a book that was over priced and a waste of time. In the end the same result was coming, I must give up my treasures, maybe holding on to one small item if I wanted to keep my children’s gifts. I knew the small price that had to be paid and although it was unspoken, as many things it was well known to us both. He spoke of the children’s gifts and how impractical and expensive they were. Children in other countries were lucky to go to school, did not have clean drinking water and definitely did not have luxuries. I knew all of these things were very true and they ran through my mind daily! When we lived in the States he would push and prod until some of these unnecessary items disappeared and were returned for grocery money. My mother’s new tactic was to be practical and patient, as she took him to the store and asked what we be good gifts for the household, of course she noticed with each visit the items she had purchased were not visible. He told me that of course these were my gifts from my parents and I should enjoy them, they were for me. But I knew from past experience this was the cue for me to say I did not care for such things and yes they were frivolous. The next day feeling secure that my children had their things and no store to return them to, I held the pink bottle, jasmine, I smelled the lotion and then quickly set it down, it was indeed a luxury, something a plain woman like myself did not need to worry about. I picked up the other gifts and put them in his room, my offering from the box and my heart.
Three oldest kids in new apartment
hall way to master bedroom and bathroom in the apartment