5: A World of Thanks

5: A World of Thanks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

A World of Thanks

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.

~Hodding Carter, Jr.

This past fall semester my daughter, Elizabeth, had the opportunity to study abroad as part of her college experience. She was off to Florence, Italy in August, not to return until mid-December. Like any mom I was worried, stressed, happy, sad, lonely, and broke.

Elizabeth was wonderful about keeping in contact. There were frequent calls and texts and many pictures posted on social media. She introduced me to her blog prior to leaving and taught my husband and me about Skype. I’ve never been more thankful for technology than I was throughout those long four months.

As I read Elizabeth’s blog, including adventures to various sites in Italy and beyond, I could not even imagine what an experience this was for her. I saw her climb Mount Vesuvius, dance on the hills of Ireland’s countryside, share beautiful photos of ruins in Rome, and lounge on the beach in Viareggio. There were stories and pictures of incredible museums, paintings, ceilings, sculptures, and even the everyday cafes and shops in Paris and London. Part of the study abroad program was to experience the culture and it was obvious that Elizabeth was doing just that!

My husband, Ted, and I anxiously checked Facebook and Elizabeth’s blog each day. We kept our phones with us at all times. The time difference made it fairly unpredictable when a call or text would come in, often in the wee hours.

Each story we read and each picture that we saw (and there were hundreds!) showed Elizabeth incredibly happy. While we remained worried and concerned each and every second of each and every day, I couldn’t help but think that this experience of a lifetime was perfect for my somewhat shy and mild mannered baby. She was blossoming.

As the holidays drew near, Ted and I decked the house as we always had done, knowing Elizabeth’s pure love of Christmas. To her, Christmas was never about gifts, but simply about the beauty and joy of the season. We set up the nativity and the Christmas village in our family room, made sure that every special ornament adorned the tree, and ordered a large “Welcome Home Elizabeth” banner to add to the front yard decorations.

On December 14th, we drove to the Cleveland airport, arriving nearly an hour early to greet Elizabeth. Ted made some excuse about wanting to leave early because of traffic but I knew that it was more the anticipation of seeing our daughter. Thankfully, the flight was right on schedule or we would have spent even longer wandering around and looking at a Lego display, albeit quite impressive!

With it being so near Christmas, and Elizabeth having many friends and relatives to connect with after four months away, it was an extremely hectic time. We did manage to sit by the fire, enjoying the Christmas decorations that Ted and I had spent days arranging, listening to stories of Elizabeth’s wonderful four-month adventure whenever there was a spare moment.

On Christmas morning, Elizabeth presented us each with rectangular packages beautifully wrapped in sparkly blue paper. She instructed us to open these gifts simultaneously, which, of course, we did. The packages were large frames containing four pictures each. They also had admission passes from art galleries and museums, various mementos, and coins and currency from around Europe.

The pictures were the best part. Elizabeth had her travel companions take pictures of her throughout her journey. In each photo, she was in a different city or even a different country. In each, she was holding a handmade sign, similar to simple signs held at an airport to pick up travelers, made from paper and a marker. Put together, the pictures spelled out: Thank — You — Mom and Dad — For — Giving — Me — The — World!

As the tears filled my eyes, I glanced at Ted to see his own eyes damp with tears, and as simultaneously as we had opened our rectangular gifts, we both rushed to hug our daughter.

Within a few days we had replaced a drawing of Elizabeth when she was five years old that had been on the wall much too long (that Elizabeth hated!) with our collage of thanks... and the heartfelt spirit of Christmas.

~Lil Blosfield

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