I haven’t seen her since Christmas, and I won’t see her for another month, but even 38-year-old daughters miss their mamas.
I dial her cell phone, and I catch her watching the whales. (Like the humpbacks do, my parents also winter in warm Maui.)
“Here one goes! Here one goes!” she says. A whale is breaching, like a clumsy, 40-ton acrobat hurling itself above the water’s surface in a misty arch.
“They’ve been breaching for hours,” she says, and I can hear the wind in the speaker of her cell phone. I want to hear more about the whales, and the luau, and the Tongan church where she and Dad worship. But she quickly changes the subject. She wants to talk about some four-inch-by-two-inch slips of paper from her Treasure Box of Love.
“Jennifer, this is probably the best gift …. No, it IS the best gift I’ve ever been given,” Mom says. “I can’t think of another gift that’s touched me like that.”
For Christmas, all of the Dukes sisters, brother, our spouses, and our children wrote notes of encouragement and Bible verses and quotes on tiny slips of colored paper. We folded them all and tucked them in a small metal box. The treasure box contains a year’s worth of love notes for our mother — one for every morning of 2010.
And no matter where Mom is, she starts her day by reaching into the box. She pulls one note randomly every morning and reads it aloud to Dad. On this day, the note came from me, the third of her four children. She re-reads it to me over the phone:
“Today, may you see God in a beautiful sunset (if you’re in Maui), may you hear him in the loon’s cry (if you’re at Minnesota) may you sense him in the comfort of home (if you’re in Marathon, Iowa) … “
And yes, she says, she’s certain she’ll see God at work painting a masterpiece over Maui at sunset.
“I know how much you kids love me, but to see it on pieces of paper like that …” Mom’s voice trails off. “That’s pretty special.”
This is how Contagious Giving works. It passes from one to another to another. I got the idea of a Treasure Box of Love last year from Ann over at A Holy Experience. And now my children caught the Joy Bug here in our Iowa home.
My girls, ages 8 and 5, are spreading joy like this:
For my birthday earlier this month, they set to work behind the closed door of the office. They’d peek through the crack of the door with simple requests. “May we have a plastic cup?”
“Mommy, do you have any tape?”
A half-hour later, they emerged with this:
And now, each morning, like my own mother, I pull a slip of paper from a Treasure Box of Love. I tug love notes out of a disposable red drinking cup, covered with masking tap and a small slit just big enough for my fingers to fit through. My notes are morning gifts:
“I love u soo much!!!!”
“You are the best.”
“Coupon to Mom: cuddle with you for free. 1,000,000,000 uses!”
When I read their words, see their drawings and linger over their exclamation points, I feel a joy that could compete with the beauty of a whale breach. These notes carry a wonder all their own.
My own heart breaches, flutters and splashes in these enormous acts of love, scratched on tiny pieces of paper.
Care to make a Treasure Box for someone you love? Consider making one for your own mother, grandmother or a friend for a birthday or Mother’s Day. Here’s how we did ours:
1. Make it a group project. Ours was a family project, so we divided 365 days by four siblings. Each of Mom’s four families needed to fill about 90 slips of paper. If you’re making a Treasure Box of Love alone — or if 365 seems overwhelming — consider a three-month Treasure Box. (A group of girlfriends could gather together to make a Treasure Box for a special friend’s milestone birthday!)
2. Pick a standard size for each slip of paper. We chose four inches wide by two inches deep. We used brightly colored construction paper, in a variety of colors.
3. Be personal. Much of what we wrote recounts special memories, or ways we’ve felt Mom’s love in a special way. We also included favorite Bible verses, quotes and special sayings.
4. Involve your children. Each of the grandchildren, even the youngest, participated. They drew pictures, and we transcribed their words of love for “Mema.”
5. Select an affordable container. We chose a metal box from Hobby Lobby. A glass hurricane jar would work nicely, too.
6. Watch love breach … and breach again. Mom says that when 2010 is over, she’s recycling these slips of paper in 2011!