Our mother had told us the packages would be coming soon, so we weren't completely surprised. But the timing of it all, not to mention the beauty of the gesture, made it seem like these gifts had come straight from heaven.
Oh, I know Dad didn't actually wrap up the dolls he'd acquired all those years ago while stationed in Japan through the U.S. Air Force, dolls he'd given as gifts to his beloved nieces back in Mandan, North Dakota, when they were but little girls -- and before we were a reality. Barb and Mary Pat were the ones to lovingly place into the mail, with our addresses attached, the beautiful dolls, which had been carefully chosen by our father for them and had traveled overseas with him decades ago.
It's been several years now since our father passed, in Jan. 2013, and this Aug. 4 marked his third birthday in heaven. I know it's presumptuous to say Dad is in heaven, but he died with the sacraments on his lips, and a heart surging toward God. If he's not there, I know he's on his way.
No matter, the dolls came, incredibly cared for all these years. Until recently, we didn't even know they existed. And so when they arrived in our mailboxes, on the same day in different cities -- the day after what would have been his 80th birthday -- it felt like more than coincidence, more than an earthly thing. To me, it seemed that Dad had had a hand in the transferring of the dolls from our cousins' sweet arms to ours.
"My doll came today!" my sister had written in a text, along with a photo. I'd only seen the words at first, in the midst of a busy day as I was. But upon returning from my errands, I stopped by the mailbox and noticed something bulging within. And I knew then that mine had arrived, too. My heart leaped with excitement!
Carefully, I opened the gift, sensing its sacredness and all that it meant. Not only did Dad, in some mysterious way, find a way to bless his only daughters on the week of his birthday, but now we were given an additional gift of peering into the hearts of these older cousins of ours, who had once been little girls, too, and had received the love of our father even before we were a thought in his own heart. For the note inside had revealed how our Dad had been beloved.
"I hope this finds you and your family well!" it began. "I contacted your mother regarding the enclosed Japanese mask doll set and she recommended you might enjoy having it. Your father gave this to me when I was quite young. I cherished it greatly as I was so fond of your Dad. I always looked forward to his visits. He would spend so much time with all of us kids. I remember playing basketball with him. He was very special to me. I hope you cherish the doll set as I have."
Dad obviously loved his nieces, whom he'd lived with for a time in between his service stints, and in some way, his love for them had spilled out into his love for us years later. We are, in that sense, all bound together by love; the love of an uncle, a father, a brother, a son.
Along with my note from Barb, the oldest sister of these cousins, my older sister received a card with her doll from the youngest cousin: "Camille, I hope you are doing well and having a good summer. Enclosed is a gift I received from your beloved father...She is a beautiful geisha doll with wigs! Hope it brings a smile to you, honoring you Dad's history and time spent in Japan! With love, Cousin Mary".
My boys are thrilled I received the boy doll with cool masks that can be changed out, though they will mostly have to admire the doll from afar. It's too precious to leave in their unpredictable hands for too long. But I'm glad they can revel in the doll with me. And I look forward to when my sister and I gather next and can share our treasures from our cousins, from our Dad, with each other. For now, I hold this gift deeply in my heart, and am filled with gratitude and awe.
Thank you, Barb and Mary Pat. Thank you, too, Daddy. You have blessed us so much...
Q4U: When have you been given a gift from above?
Copyright 2015 Roxane Salonen.
Photo copyright 2015 Roxane Salonen. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com