This past November, I offered Alpha Daughter a holiday present: Would she and her family like airline tickets to come home for the Holidays--to our house in a leafy suburb where she grew up. It was not a small offer. Her family (herself, my Grand, my son-in-law and grandpup) is living in Berlin for a year. I advanced my idea on the theory that they might be lonely spending the holiday break so far from home. They had "friends" in Berlin--they've been living in the city for four months--but not "spend the holidays with us" friends. Besides, most of their friends and acquaintances would be scattering to their parents' homes in other cities in Germany and Europe.
That's what I was thinking when I asked if she would like three flights home as a Holiday present. She thought about it for a minute--"We'd have to find someone to take care of the dog"--and then said "I do."
And so it was that Paterfamilias drove to the airport at 4:30 on Christmas day to pick up the little contingent of travelers--everyone but the dog, for whom a temporary home had been found. The minute they stepped through the front door, it was clear how much the trip meant to my Grand, who is 11 years old. Turns out, she sees our house as a second home: no matter where she and her parents live--in some city or country far from us--there's always the same house in the same leafy suburb where she knows the best nooks for reading and the crannies where she can sit when she wants to be alone. She knows the dogs in the neighborhood and runs out to greet them when she sees them from our kitchen window.
We were a happy reunited family, hunkered down in the living room in front of the fireplace, every throw blanket in the house wrapped around someone. We read by the fire, we watched Runway reruns on a laptop, we talked, we exchanged gifts, we had lovely meals. By the second or third day in, all the travelers came down with colds--such are the joys of international flight--which meant they tended to stay inside to nurse their sore throats and stuffy noses.
Which was fine for me since there is one point I've left out. My own personal holiday gift was a new hip to match the one I got last year. It arrived in mid-December. I knew from the "unwrapping" of a new hip last year how time hangs heavy when you're sitting around recuperating. So having my daughter and her family at our house--to enjoy their company, to have her supplement the care provided by PF [post-shower lotion rubs on the feet], to be able to talk about all things big and little--was, as Sarah Silverman might say, beyond beyond. My daughter helped me figure out a yoga routine I could do seated in the kitchen chair. She talked about the projects she was working on. We talked about families we were once friendly with--and what a burden it had been for her to have to be with their children--and about other friends and family. My Grand ate up every bit of chitchat about people who had once loomed large in her mother's life--and how her mother had suffered through enforced socializing just as she did with some of her parents' friends. We lit candles to toast in the New Year. My recuperatory time didn't just fly by. It was time well and delightfully spent.
The gift I gave my daughter? I knew when I offered it that I wasn't being all that generous. It was mostly a gift to myself. Best one ever.