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The box arrived unexpectedly at the front door of my girlfriend’s home, delighting my friend’s mother who pulled out a woolen coat. She must have seen it displayed somewhere and expressed interest.
The coat appeared to be functional but not glamorous. It was three-quarters in length and the wooden buttons were fastened by cloth loops.
It was sporty — greenish brown in color — nothing like the beautiful mink coat my mother wore on Sundays. In my 6 year-old mind, this coat seemed rather plain. But the style of the coat was not what captivated me. It was the reaction the coat brought. I had never before seen a gift bring such happiness, such joy to a home.
The coat was a surprise gift from my girlfriend’s father. He had bought it on the sly, knowing how much his wife wanted it. He wasn’t home when it arrived at their front door but she was so excited she didn’t wait for him. She quickly put it on and dashed to the mirror and back again, laughing and catching her breath, uncertain as to where to turn next, unable to contain her joy.
I watched in wonder. I had never seen this kind of love; this kind of abundant gratitude.
The scene stayed with me all these years. A year or two ago, I asked my girlfriend if she remembered that day. Neither she nor her mother remembered what was called the “stadium” coat that had arrived unexpectedly that afternoon.
My friend’s mother died this Nov. 6 at age 89.
But this brief vignette lives inside of me, always reminding me to express gratitude.
Last winter a group of people helped me through a difficult period.
I’ve struggled with how to thank them, even obsessing on occasion.
Should I one-by-one take them out to dinner? No, there’s a virus lurking. Best not to risk it.
Should I take them on a walk in the woods? Possibly. Would they go?
A bike ride?
No chance to talk intimately while riding.
So what then?
Perhaps I could send just a simple message of thanks and gratitude to each of them privately and take this moment — a day before Thanksgiving — to let them know I will never forget, just as I will never forget the lesson of appreciation and gratitude I learned on the day the stadium coat arrived.