When Hannah was younger, buying gifts was not challenging as they came in two categories; Toy Story/Shrek & movies, or potato chips. It’s safe to say that Hannah, who was basically non-verbal, really didn’t have much to say until Shrek came on the scene. She watched that movie so many times that we could all act it out, and frequently did. Ken does a tremendous brogue and Addison is a fine Donkey. Hannah learned every single word. We owe Mike Myers a debt of gratitude. Despite having Shrek toys, which were plentiful, her love of Woody and Buzz was unmatched.
Despite having Shrek toys, which were plentiful, her love of Woody and Buzz was unmatched. There is something magical about knowing, with certainty, what we all have known in the deep recesses of our own hearts- toys are alive. For Hannah, there was never any doubt of this and this was proven to me a few weeks ago. After my mom passed away, lots of boxes came to our house and sat in the garage, unopened. The process of going through things was best taken in small steps for me. Imagine my surprise when I found, neatly tucked away after a very long sleep, Woody, Buzz, Jesse, and Bullseye. Gramma used to have a playroom and somehow, when we moved, just like the first movie, these travelers missed the truck. As Hannah got older, that playroom became a TV room and eventually my parent’s bedroom when my mom became ill.
Hannah greeted these toys like the long lost friends that were. They are now sitting on the chair in her room, right next to the bed where I’m confident many secrets are shared.
And there were chips. Chips… Hannah has a mild addiction to chips, so we limit them severely. When she was 8, my mom asked what she could get Hannah for her birthday and she told her, “chips.” Skeptical, but trusting us anyway, my mom bought her 2 bags of chips and a tube of pringles. After the candles and cake and a few toys later, that reaction; forever etched, indelible, “CHIPS, I DON’T BELIEVE IT!! CHIPS!! YOU ARE THE BEST GRAMMA EVER!!!” Needless to say, every birthday since has been celebrated properly with a bag of chips.
But as she’s gotten older, gift giving has become part contest, part hunting trip, part mystery to be solved. She just doesn’t give many clues. Two years ago she asked for paint supplies and our house was filled with canvas, paint, brushes, sketch books. Everyone wants to give her what she wants and lots of it. Once every couple of months, she’ll ask to paint, but mostly it is all in the painting box.
Ah, but this past Christmas she surprised me with a simple request. Books- we need more books. For a number of years, at bedtime, Theresa, Hannah and I would do a chapter a night. We fell out of it for a little while, but this past summer we started again because it’s such a lovely transition to peaceful sleep. Most of Hannah’s books are simpler so that she can read them independently. Theresa no longer sits on the bed with us, but loaned us her books. When I asked Hannah what she wanted for Christmas this year, she said, “Books. Reading books. Books for bed. Just books.” “Just books?
Our discount bookstore had a children’s classic series, which I picked up with no small sense of triumph, I promise you. But books poured in from aunts and siblings as well. We started with Alice in Wonderland and then followed her through the looking glass. That’s one loopy adventure. The language I found difficult to follow and I wondered out loud one night, “Do you even get this stuff?” She looked at me like I had three heads, “Just read, Mom.” Theresa from the other room, quietly mimicking, “Yeah, just read, Mom.”
We are halfway through The Little Princess and I know that she’s going to cry when Sara has to go up to the attic. How can I dread something with such an anxious anticipation, already knowing it will be alright in the end? Captain Crewe is safe and sound, the diamond mines pay off, she gets to be happy again. And I get to be happy again, too. These are good stories. These are wonderful journeys we get to share and she wants to, at 17, she wants to.
My dad, holding a 10-month-old Hannah on the porch swing one sunny late spring day, marveled as she snuggled into him instead of trying to get down and explore. He said, “You know, the whole point of a child is that they start growing up and away from you from the first moment they are born. But she, she will be a child longer and that’s the real gift of this.”