Cooked supper for the family and brought my daughter a small gift which inspired some thoughts about the gifts we give.
Today was a beautiful day. Blue skies and warm green grass. It was one of those Oregon summer days that remind you why we live here.
We got up early to participate in a family triathlon under the sun. Everyone had a good time and at the end we were “good tired.” Afterwards, medals in hand, we made our way down to the festival in the park.
There were many booths, bouncy houses, food vendors, a band churning out oldies, and a car show. Thirsty, we bought some drinks and walked around the shiny cars. The work that people put into the old vehicles is quite remarkable. We saw Roasters from the 1920’s, Chevy’s from the 1950’s, and even some vintage golf carts from the 1970’s. All were tricked out and polished to shine in the noonday sun. As we walked among the cars, a lost balloon bouquet floated up through the blue sky.
My daughter was infatuated with a Chevy that was completely done up in Pink. Even the owners, a man and wife, were dressed in full pink outfits, including pink tennis shoes. To top it off, the car had a pink drive-in diner tray on the window.
My daughter has always loved the color pink. Her middle name is Rose. In order to tell her apart from her twin sister when they were young, we had to color code them. The love of pink stuck.
After visiting the car several times, my daughter went to the local volunteer with the bouquet of balloons and picked a pink one. She tied it to her wrist and along with her brother and sister made their way through the bouncy castles and rock climbing wall.
Following a good round of playing, we wound the afternoon down and made our way towards our van. Glancing around, my daughter realized that her balloon was no longer tied to her wrist. Looking up, we watched a pink balloon floating up through the blue sky.
My daughter’s head sagged as she watched and we turned to walk away. I could see the air go out of her. Being eleven, it was surprising to see how much a little balloon deflated her. Usually, she shrugs it off. But not today.
Whether we like it or not, a parent often does what is easiest. In this case, teaching a lesson, or consoling my daughter about her balloon would have been easiest.
But I did not choose to do that. Winking at my wife, I quietly slipped back while the family trudged onward, led by our moping daughter. Running back to the balloon vendors, who by now were quite far away, I asked for a pink balloon. The poor volunteer had a tangled mess of balloons in her hand and fishing a pink one out took some time and my help. But eventually it came free.
Tired legs, I ran back across the long fields, pink balloon fluttering behind me. More than a few eyes looked questioningly. Breathless, just as my family reached our van, I caught up with my daughter. I handed her the pink balloon as my wife snapped a quick picture.
“Thanks,” she mumbled. It was clear that the balloon was not that important. But in a few minutes after her mother reminded her that I had run a long ways just for something as trivial as a pink balloon, she brightened. Then she thanked me several times.
The pink balloon was not that important. What was important, was that I had gone out of my way to get something she wanted. And that is the real value of a gift. It is the time and effort we put into selecting the gift. It is the thought and the care that really matter. And I think, that is what made her happy.
As I progress through the year of my “Post-Christmas Resolution”, it occurs to me how often I go Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. And how many others are joining me in the mall that night. A thoughtful gift does not come with a few seconds of thought.
Who knows, maybe I will even get her a pink balloon.