[Groupon UK is running a contest wherein entrants write a blog post about their perfect gift idea – either for themselves, or someone else – this Valentine’s Day. This is my entry!]
I was in the fourth grade when she first left the country. I remember the gifts she brought back – small, plastic figurines of princesses with swords at their hips and knights mounted on horses. It was the peak of my fantastical stories age when i spent hours crafting intricate narratives against the backdrop of my waterfall Playmobile set. Her gifts were the perfect addition to my cast of characters: feisty female leads with dashing love interests played by an assortment of stuffed animals.
My mother has always ensured i live a charmed life. She left the country for the first time in her thirties. I was fourteen when we boarded the plane for Uganda.
Her friend’s book club had booked a trip to Paris and an extra spot was vacant. My mother purchased this exquisite, calf-length black coat for the occasion. The collar was faux fur, and i thought she looked like a movie star from the 1930s. Paris is cold in February, she told me then.
Edinburgh is too.
At the age of twenty, i’ve been given the best gifts i could ever ask for. Love in my life, warms homes, stamped passport, recipes for fried chicken. There’s not much more i could ask for than that. My mother was my gateway into the world, and she has opened innumerable doors since i came through.
When we’d opened our action figures, she told me how the street she’d found them on was like Diagon Alley. Like magic made it appear, cobblestone-covered and impossible to find again. She talked and talked, how the windows in Notre Dame dimmed in the rain but dazzled in the sun. Chirping her Bonjour’s and reminiscing the wine, i drank in her memories like the stories she’d given me bound in books.
It was her first and only time to Paris. We’ve traveled together across East and West Africa, hearts full with adventure and simplicity and constancy. But it’s been some time since my mother has traveled abroad. I can hear little aches in her voice when i tell her how spellbound i am with the red letter-boxes on the streets.
There are many things i wish i could give my mother in return for what she has given me. But a parent’s love is a kind of gift that i, even in my neurotic-must-repay mindset, can never hope to give back in equal measure.
If i could, on Valentine’s Day i would give her is a chance to fall in love with Europe all over again. To visit me, in Edinburgh, and to see why it is that Scotland possess its own kind of magic. I would take her to St. Margaret’s chapel in the Edinburgh castle, because i know she’d like that the oldest building in Edinburgh was built to honor a holy woman. We would eat mussels along the coast and drink in salt air with our wine. She’d tell me about her father and his shrimp boat, and about growing up along an oceanside river. I’d tuck my chin into my folded-up knees and soak in her stories, feeling and looking no different than from when i was ten and she first told me about Paris.
I would show her Edinburgh’s own kind of Diagon Alleys and histories of princesses with swords at the hip. I’d show her to see how her piles of storybooks and memories of Paris have woven in my imagination seeds for endless possibilities, endless adventures.
It’s a gift i wish, so much, that i could give. But in the stead of taking her to the foot of Arthur’s Seat i send pictures. There are long talks on Skype. Some days, when i miss her warmth and her storytelling most acutely, i remember her movie-star black coat and the stories she told, giving a prayer of thanks for the gift of a mother i have been given.
current jam: ‘oh my sweet carolina (live)’ zac brown band.
best thing: moms.