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We have all had an object in our lives, that we never wanted to let go of. Whether it be a teddy bear from your childhood or an engagement ring. They hold meaning to us, beyond what other could understand. Personal to you and your thoughts, but physical in the world. Normally these objects are endearing, gifts or things that come along with great memories. By now you might have thought of a certain object that you hold dear to you. For me, it was a gift from the dead.
February 14th is Valentine's day, as many of us know. However, it is also my birthday. This birthday was far from happy. You could see it in everyone's faces. The store bought cake, my mom never bought cake, it didn’t taste as good. It proclaimed in bright letters “Happy Birthday Kate!” With one to many exclamation points for my liking. The icing scrawl made me want to scream. The overdone flowers disgusted me. The candle in the shape of a seven, made me want to burn this fake cake. It was just as fake as the plastered smile on my mother’s face.
I didn’t know what it meant back then, but she had dark bags under her eyes, and her hands shook slightly with every move she made. The cake was cut and passed around to the guests. It was only family this year. No friends, no silly games. The sweet taste over took my mouth, I wanted to spit it back on the plate. She is finally smiling. I cannot ruin this. I swallowed the terrible cake and planted a smile on my face, saying I was enjoying myself. The table conversed about various things in their lives.
“How are your kids?” One voice asked.
“Good, they are growing up so fast. It seems like only yesterday they were learning to walk.” My aunt replied.
“Now they are running around causing trouble and making messes,” added my uncle. There were chuckles sprinkled in. My ears rang with the forced happiness. My fork picked through the various layers of the cake, dissecting it, but not eating much. My mom would flick her eyes in my direction every once in awhile, and I would take another little bite every time she did.
Sure, today was my birthday, the party was for me. But it was just a mask over the real meaning. Pull back the layers of childish glee and one will stumble upon a completely different scene. The day was a celebration. A party of mourning, and of survival. We had made it this far. It had been two months. It was time to try and breath again, and a start of moving on. But I refused to remember, I wouldn’t let t
his ruin my birthday. We had to be happy. We had to.
I was shaken by my thoughts by a hand on my shoulder. I followed the arm, up to the face of my mother. There were dishes being put away, and someone was boxing away the last of the cake.
“I need to talk to you,” she said. My stomach instantly dropped. The beat of my heart picked up, to match my racing thoughts. Those words never meant anything good. Had I done something bad? Maybe it was the silly putty in my sisters pillow? I thought we already talked about that though. Slowly I got up from my chair at the head of the table, following her into the entryway of our home. “Are you having fun sweetie?” She asked, placing a hand on my shoulder. Was that meant to be comforting? Because it only made me squirm with nervousness under her touch.
“Yeah,” I replied, trying not to mumble out the word.
“You are getting a special present today. But I want you to try and be calm about it because no one else has ever gotten a present like this.” I felt my head nod slowly. I was good at pretending. This shouldn’t be to hard. “Good. Let’s go sit down.” She took me by the arm and sat me in a chair at the front of the living room. There were wrapped boxes placed in haphazard piles strewn about the room. I was on a throne, in front of all my admirers. The gifts were passed forward, and paper torn off. There was a set of dinosaur toys, and some science kit. None of these were from my mom yet. As I came to the final few presents, my heart sank, thinking I had been tricked. My hopes had been to high.
I slowly set aside the last toy. The tissues paper from the bags was flung around my chair, and everyone was grinning. I felt a frown tug on the corners of my lips, but I shook it off, and smiled anyways. My mom wasn’t in the room, she wouldn’t have seen it if I frowned. This stuff was nice. It was cool and fun. Except for those stupid socks from my grandma. I went to look at some of the toys, as my aunt picked up the mess I had made.
“Kate, sit back down for one second,” My mother said from behind me. I released the toy I had been about to remove from it’s packaging, and made my way back to the throne. I clambered back onto it, my little legs struggling to reach. Finally, I was planted back in my seat. Slowly, my mom pulled a beaten pink shoe box. What’s so special about a raggedy, old box? I pouted. I had thought it would be something huge and amazing. She placed the box onto my lap and let me stare at it. The room was very quiet.
The side of the box had writing on it in bold black lines. I quickly whipped my head up, looking around the room. Was he really here? Had I imagined the whole thing? My excitement died, as soon as I locked eyes with my mom. She shook her head slightly, her eyes watering slightly, telling me he was still gone. He was not coming back. I slowly sank my head, feeling the all too familiar feeling come sweeping through my body. A pressure behind my chest and the steady drip of a damn about to burst. The room was silent. I removed the lid of the shoes box. There was no colorful tissue paper. No happy note on the top. Just one item.
I ran my hand across the fuzzy surface, picking it up to look at it. A stuffed animal. A Webkinz to be specific. He was a spotted dalmatian toy, from my dead father. I hugged the creature tightly, silently naming him Spot. This was my connection. The last physical present I would ever receive from him.
My mom would explain later that night, that he picked it out in late November as a christmas present for me. I had wanted it so bad, that he went back and got it for me. Though it was intended for the time of candy canes and family dinners, I received it two months later. It wasn’t his fault it got to me so late. It wasn’t his fault his heart stopped, ten days before he was meant to give it to me. My mom was to upset to give it to me so early, so she waited.
The stuffed animal named Spot, was his last gift to me. It has brought me both fond and sad memories of my dad. It has been a reminder to me, that even though everything could be working against you, there is still hope. This is my memory gadget. An item that is more special to me, then anything else I own. The dog has been at the hospital with me and wore a hospital bracelet around his neck, or he resides in my backpack when I get scared. A constant reminder of how life once was, and how it has healed and changed over time. My sister wears the ring he once gave my mom, and my brother carries his wallet. My mom still wears the necklace he gave her. We all hold something dear to our hearts, whether it is worth a thousand dollars or only ten. The memories it carries are priceless, along with the spot they hold in our hearts.