The Easter Bunny brought Brian an airplane this year. It came in plain, undecorated cardboard pieces and we both thought it would be a fun activity to do together. Every so often, we'd sit on the floor - markers and crayons riddled around us - and carefully color the airplane's body, the wings, the nose. It was all under his strict instruction, of course. There were days that he wasn't interested in working on it. There were also days when I was quite tired of seeing it laying there - unfinished. There was even one day when I reminded him that a whole week had gone by and he hadn't wanted to touch it - maybe it was time we tossed it in the recycling.
"NO!" he said. "I have so much fun doing this with you!"
There were even days that Daddy got on the floor and contributed to the coloring scheme! It took a long time, but today we finished it. I put it together and Brian and I added the finishing touches.
He even chose a model name and number for the plane: VAAV 90,000. Sounds good to me.
We took it outside and he tested it in the yard.
I have to say, the aerodynamics were impressive. I remarked to Brian that it was a shame they didn't leave room for a flight attendant and he said, "That's okay. I can be the pilot AND the flight attendant! Watch." And then he turned his body clear around and asked the air, "Would you like a snack?"
Later that day, Brian, Hope and I took a walk around the block. I told him how happy I was that we finished the airplane - even though it took us forever to do it! I asked him what he liked best about the plane and his answers really left me thinking.
He didn't talk about how cool the plane was - or how fun it was to play with. He didn't even talk about how well we colored it! His favorite part of this cardboard toy was us.
He loved coloring together. He loved that I would sit on the floor. (Some days that is quite a miracle due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis, let me tell you!) He loved when I told him stories from my days as a flight attendant. And he loved being silly with me.
"But Brian, we do those kinds of things a lot!" I reminded him.
"I know," he replied. "But you asked me what I liked about the plane and that is it!"
Sometimes as parents we think the big things will give us the biggest payoffs. We think our children will be happiest with the priciest toys, the fancy, expensive birthday parties, the major vacations. It's easy to want to please them in the biggest ways.
But I'm here to tell you - Brian is here to tell you, actually - that it's not necessary.
Do you know that when I think back to my life with my parents, the first things that pop into my mind aren't the big things. They aren't even on my list of favorite memories - even a Disney trip! The best moments for me were the many nights my Mom sat beside me when I was going to sleep, rubbing my back and letting me talk. Or not talk. It didn't matter because I just loved having her there. Or when my Dad would write me poems or letters on birthdays, graduations, special events...or for no reason at all.
The smallest things can sometimes - actually, oftentimes - produce the biggest payoffs.
I hope one day my children will look back and remember...
The bedtime gigglefests.
The love bomb dates when the answer was always yes.
Spending hours at the art table.
Hearing Santa's bells outside their bedroom windows.
How they felt when their Daddy walked in the door from work.
Spending time having fun with their cousins.
Laughing about 18 years of store bought birthday cakes.
Getting love from their Granny.
So much laughing.
Pencil measurements in the doorway.
And Gavin. I hope they always remember Gavin.
Even though Hope will never know a life with him, I hope both she and Brian remember that he was always there. Every day and in everything we do - he was there.
Every night, Brian asked me to tell him a story from when I was little.
Many, many years from now - when they are telling their own children bedtime stories about life when they were little, I hope they tell them it was filled with love...
The biggest payoff of all.