© 2014 Marica

Treasured gift

We were all seated around the table in my parent’s kitchen. My sister, her husband and one of her adult sons were leaving the following morning to return home after spending the holidays with us. I noticed my mother had a neatly folded bath towel on her lap. It was such an odd sight. I wondered what that was all about but didn’t say anything.

At some point there was a break in the conversation. My mother looked directly at me and spoke.

“I have something for you,” she said.

“You’re not going to give me that bath towel are you mama?” I said jokingly.

Imagine my surprise when my beautiful mother smiled and said, “Yes I am.”

“I have kept this bath towel for you and never used it. Our next door neighbour gave it to us as a gift when you were born. She bought it from Kirkcaldie and Stains [an upmarket department store in Wellington]. It was the only gift we received. I wanted you to have it. There was another one but I can’t find it.”

I looked at my mama and the towel and I felt the tears in my eyes. I remember this particular neighbour. Her name was Mrs O’Neal. She was a teacher at our local school. She used to spend time with me every day to teach me to speak English.

I also know what this gift must have meant to my mother. She arrived in this country not knowing the land, the language or anything about life here. She had my father and a few members of his family here. My mother had left behind in Croatia everything that was familiar, and most importantly all her friends and family. Ten months after arriving in New Zealand my mother gave birth to me. What a lonely and scary experience that must have been – alone in a hospital with no support from anyone familiar to her, not knowing what was happening and not understanding what anyone was saying to her. I could imagine that this gift from a friendly neighbour would have meant a lot.

Now, 58 years later, this gift has been passed on to me for safe keeping.

Who shall I pass it on to I wonder?

Manifesto
03. Every day is an opportunity to reflect on the past.
14. Every day the ordinary can be the extraordinary.
20. Every day say thank you.

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