The gift was wrapped in Christmas paper. Christmas in June. I could roll with that.
It was heavy and rattled when I shook it, but there was no sign that there were loose pieces rolling around. I’ve always been terrible at guessing at the contents of gifts, so I had no idea what was inside. I sat in the front seat of the car with my dad beside me, and tore the paper off.
It was an art set. I trailed my fingers over the color photo on the front, where the myriad colored pencils and other supplies were laid out in all their splendor. I had slowly been getting into drawing over the past year, and my dad had, too, one of those independent but simultaneous discovery things. We sometimes exchanged messages that contained pictures of our latest creations. My father was much better at realism than I was, but I appreciated the slightly cartoonish nature of my own drawings, as well.
“I have the same one,” he said, watching me. “I hope you like it.”
There was a bit of a lump in my throat, perhaps a strange reaction to an art set. But it was more than that to me. My family is a complicated web, as many families are these days. Being the oldest child and the only one from my mother and father, it is easy to feel like an outsider, an interloper, the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit. I have been struggling with these feelings for a long time, and they have come up in therapy sometimes. The feeling that I am not known. Not a priority. The one who doesn’t belong. But this gift. It sat on my lap, staring up at me and saying, quiet but firm, I see you. I see who you are and what moves you and I want to help you bring that into the world. It was my dad telling me that he saw me, too, that he knew me and wanted to help me bring my art (my soul) into the open.
“I love it,” I said, smiling huge. I hugged it all the way home.