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Meaningful Gifts

Meaningful Gifts
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
Meaningful Gifts
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

My husband’s newly found biological mother, who we now refer to as “Texas Mom,” told us that every June 8th since 1963, she has secretly wished her son a “Happy Birthday” and wondered “where” he was and most importantly, “how” he was.

“You were a secret, but I never forgot about you,” she told Gene. “And my mother — your grandmother, Nano — knew about you and never forgot about you either. I’ve always loved you and hoped that you were well, that you had a good life, and that we would meet again one day. Every year, I drew a heart on June 8th on my calendar, but no one ever asked me what the heart meant.”

As the calendar inched closer to my husband’s birthday this year, Texas Mom grew more and more excited.

“This will be the first year in 60 years that I can actually celebrate the anniversary of your birth without hiding it from everyone and without being sad,” she said in early June.

Her gift arrived several days before Gene’s birthday with lettering on the box that read, “Open on June 8th. No peeking!”

And a smaller package from his half sister, Kim, arrived a few days before his birthday, as well.

“Please open mine now!” Kim said. “Please, please, please!”


2) But Gene held firm and noted that he would wait to open all of his gifts on the morning of June 8th.

Last Thursday, on his birthday, I got up and made coffee for the two of us. The text messages began just after 7 a.m. Kim begged him to FaceTime with her while he opened her birthday gift, and with sleep still in our eyes and our hair sticking up all over our heads, we connected to his half sister via a video link.

Gene read the birthday card — a poem she had written to him celebrating their recent reunion. His eyes welled with happy tears. Underneath her and her husband’s signatures, Kim had glued a piece of paper that read, “Love you always, Nano.” She had cut the signature from a card her grandmother (Nano) had given to her years ago and had pasted it in Gene’s birthday card. Gene couldn’t speak for a few seconds.

“Nano knew about you, Gene,” Kim said. “She’s not here anymore, so she can’t sign the card, so I kind of helped her sign it.”

Gene took a deep swallow and touched the signature before setting the card aside and picking up a pile of family photos Kim had copied. She had written all she knew about the people on the back side of each one.

“I wanted to make sure you had family photos,” she said.

“Thank you!” Gene said. Gene studied each face, and Kim talked about the family members — Gene’s biological family members, each who resembled my husband in some way.

Thirty minutes later, Gene was on a phone call with Texas Mom as he opened her box. He lifted a red polo shirt from tissue paper.

“I love to see you wear red,” she explained, as Gene refolded it and set it aside.

Next, he lifted a large blanket from the box. As he scrutinized it, he realized that the blanket showcased the Texas state seal, a jalapeño pepper, a Texas longhorn, a cowboy, boots, a Mockingbird, and other things relevant to the state of Gene’s birth.

“You are from Texas, so you better start learning more about Texas,” she said. “And after you were adopted, I wasn’t there to give you a baby blanket, so I’m giving you one now — a man blanket.”

His biological mother emphasized the word, “man,” and then she howled with laughter, and we laughed too, but then she suddenly got quiet.

“Happy birthday, Gene,” she said, her voice shaking a little. “I’ve been waiting 60 years to say that to you. Happy birthday! I love you!”

My small gifts paled in comparison to the gift of love Gene has received from his biological family. And so my husband had a wonderful birthday this year, filled with memorable moments and meaningful gifts that have filled him with immense joy and gratitude. There are expensive presents in the world, and then there are sentimental and heartfelt gifts … But nothing compares to the gift of family.

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