A Treasured Possession

 

by

Deb Shirley

 

Maggie reached the door and peered through the square windowpane as the UPS truck sped away. I don’t remember ordering anything; but then my memory isn’t as good as it used to be. She turned the knob and opened the door expecting to find a plain cardboard box.  Instead …

The woman rubbed her eyes in disbelief.  What is this?  Who would send me such a beautiful gift?  The box was about the size of a toaster, but it was wrapped in shimmering gold paper. When she picked it up the reflection of the sunrays bursting from its surface temporarily blinded her.  A sudden movement in the bushes startled her; Maggie froze. This could be another practical joke being played on me by the neighbor’s brats. She shivered as she recalled the water balloon attack the previous week. Well, I’ve endured enough of their tricks to last a lifetime.  This time I’m not playing their game.

The woman returned the package to the top step, turned her best ear toward the shrubs, and froze for several seconds as she listened for giggling in the bushes. All was quiet; only the sweet song of a robin in the distance penetrated the silence.  Slapping herself on the head, Maggie woke her foggy brain.  It’s 11:00 a.m.  The little monsters are in school.  Maggie stooped down and retrieved the package.  Maybe I should open this just in case it’s not a prank. It is so beautiful. Perhaps the UPS man delivered it to the wrong address. She rotated the package and searched for a label. There wasn’t one.  How odd?  In all my years, I've never received a gift without an address label.  Even when I used to get flowers from Thomas, God rest his soul, there was always a card. 

In the distance, the brown truck disappeared around a curve. For the first time in a long while, Maggie smiled. I suppose the UPS man could have a crush on me.  After all, she brushed a red twig of hair from her forehead, thanks to L’Oreal, I certainly don’t look 79, and he has smiled at me on more than one occasion.

Maggie returned to the shelter of her home.  She knew Betty Sue, the elderly woman next door, was probably peeking through the curtains, and she certainly didn't want to be the talk of the next Quilting Bee. She approached the dining room, gently placed the gift on the table, and stepped back to study it.  She leaned forward and lightly placed her ear on the top of the box. Well, it’s not ticking. That’s good.

She lifted the present and shook it … gently at first.  Nothing. She shook it again, harder.  Still nothing.  She shook it a third time violently.  She detected a slight squeak, but nothing to help identify the contents. What in the world can this be? 

Maggie retrieved the scissors from a kitchen drawer and methodically cut the tape. I’m keeping this wrapping. If this is a joke, at least I’ll be able to use this beautiful paper. The woman folded it carefully and placed the paper in her souvenir drawer.  She flipped the box looking for a card.  Who in the world could have sent this? 

Finally, when she could stand it no longer, she lifted the lid and peered inside. “Of course,” she moaned aloud, “it’s wrapped in Styrofoam." Maggie struggled to withdraw the contents from the box. The fit was so tight that she wondered if it had been glued to the inside.  After several moments, she freed the parcel from its container.  Well, that figures.  Even the Styrofoam is taped.  Exasperated, she again reached for the scissors and snipped the tape. Whoever sent this certainly didn’t want to make it easy to open!

 After what seemed like an eternity, Maggie removed the top half of the Styrofoam. The shocked woman gasped.  A mirror?  Who in the world would send me a mirror?  Don’t I get to look at this ugly face enough without carrying a mirror everywhere I go? What kind of cruel joke is this? 

She peeked through the window to assure herself the neighborhood kids were not outside laughing at her.  There was no one in sight.  Cautiously, Maggie lifted the mirror from the casing.  The last thing I need at my age is seven years of bad luck.

It was magnificent.  It wasn’t ornate, like the vanity mirrors you’d see in the department stores. "It is so smooth," she whispered as she ran her fingers around the solid brass edges.  Even though it was plain – a lot like her – the workmanship was exquisite. Her husband had been an artisan.  He’d often work for days to forge a perfect vase or bowl for his customers. Whoever made this mirror possessed the same flawless touch. 

Maggie lifted the mirror to survey her reflection.  Oh, Thomas, has it really been three years?  She stroked the lines at the corner of her mouth. I certainly have aged since you left me, my darling.  It has been such a lonely journey without you.

As she wiped a lone tear from her cheek, the weary woman turned the mirror over to examine the back.  Engraved on the shiny brass plate was an elaborate inscription. 

You are my treasured possession!

Suddenly, she remembered the date.  Maggie pulled a chair from the table and fell into it.  Today was their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  She traced the inscription with her index finger. She’d read those words many times before. They were included in every letter Thomas had ever penned to her. He never signed, “I love you.”  No. He ended every card and letter with the words, “You are my treasured possession.”

She closed her eyes and imagined his face.  She saw the twinkle in his crystal blue eyes followed by a secret wink that only she understood.  She rubbed her neck and recalled the many days he slipped up behind her and planted a kiss just above her collar before whispering those words in her ear. Some women would take offense at being a possession, but Maggie relished it.  The day that she wed, Thomas had taken ownership of her heart and he had attended it with delicate care for forty-seven years.  Now, from his grave his words filled the void in her soul.

She longed to read the familiar words highlighted in the Harris Family Bible. Every night of their marriage, the couple had opened the book and read a chapter together before flipping to the dog-eared page and reading from Malachi 3.  In her brokenness, Maggie had buried her faith with her husband and concealed the book from her sight. For the first time since the funeral, she yearned for it.

She retrieved it from the bureau, flipped it open to the center pages, and read the information written there.  Every detail of their life together had been recorded – their names, dates of birth, their wedding date, the date of their baptism together a year after their marriage.  There were also a few blank areas.  No children were listed.  The three lost to miscarriage had no names.  With a pang, she wondered why.  I should have given them names and recorded the dates of their births and deaths. She scanned the remainder of the page. There was another glaring space that was bare. Maggie rose from the chair, located a pen, and returned to write on the Date of Death line, “ September 1, 2002 .”

For several moments, she silently stared at the page before flipping to the book of Malachi. There, pressed in the third chapter, she discovered a sheet of notebook paper.  She immediately recognized Thomas’ handwriting.  She wiped the tears from her eyes and read.

My dearest darling,

If you are reading this, chances are I have gone on ahead of you. Today is August 15, 2002 and we both know that I am in my final days on this earth.  What a journey we have had together, my love.  I don’t regret one single second of our time together. 

Do you remember the day we met?  You were sitting in a booth at Jerry’s Soda Shop with another boy. I forget his name, but you were licking a chocolate ice cream cone and he was talking about cars or speeding or some nonsense like that. I sat in the booth behind him watching your every movement. I can still recall each flutter of your eyelashes. I can still see you daintily dabbing the chocolate from the edge of your mouth.  You were smiling at him, but not really listening.  Then, without warning, your eyes met mine and we were swept into a current from which there was no return.  He made the mistake of going to the jukebox and I made my move.

I wonder what he thought when he returned to find the booth empty. I don’t really care, but I wonder. Does he know what he lost that day?  Does he realize that his loss was my greatest gain?

Six weeks later, we stood in Pastor Paul’s house and said, “I do.” Did you truly understand at that moment the deep impact you had on my life? 

We’ve faced many trials together, my dear, but every one has only strengthened our love and our resolve to always be together. I wish that determination could free me from the hold that death’s grasp has on me, but it can’t.  I just pray that our love and precious memories will help you face the coming days without me.  I know that God’s love will see you through.  Not a day will go by that I won’t be asking our Heavenly Father to wrap His loving arms of comfort around you.

If you are reading this letter on September 25, 2005, Happy Anniversary. I hope you like the gift.  Until we meet again, I’ll be waiting for you.  My darling, I have loved you with an everlasting love and pledge that love to you for an eternity and more.  Remember always, you are my treasured possession.

                                                                                                                                      Thomas

After a long afternoon of curiosity, Betty Sue knocked on Maggie’s door. When there was no answer, she peeked through the window to find her neighbor lying on the floor clutching something brass. A piece of paper rested on the floor beside her. A smile of contentment adorned her face.

Contact Information

Please feel free to contact me via email or mail

Deb Shirley

12467 McMath Trail

McCalla, AL  35111

Facebook