I finally just finished writing all the thank you notes from my wedding gifts. Although it gets tedious, and although it probably didn't need to take me two and a half months, I was trying to remember with each sentence, each card, each envelope, that it is truly a blessing to have had so many wonderful people in my life that it takes me ten weeks to thank all of them.
Everyone's gifts, from handmade and heartfelt to generously-given cash and gift cards, were beautiful.
But there were two gifts touched me in particular. Both were from old friends of my mother who I've not seen in years. Neither of them were invited to the wedding.
One was from a family who took care of me in the 1980s. In the letter, they explained that they took me home on Sunday mornings after the early church service and took care of me while my mother played the organ and my father sang in the choir. My mother says they never let her pay them for babysitting. Apparently they would often make waffles for Sunday brunch, and were amazed at the amount that I, as a two-year-old, could eat. I have no memory of any of this, and I've only seen them a handful of times since we moved in 1989. But when they heard that I was getting married, they all decided I should have my own waffle iron complete with their long-tested waffle recipe.
The other was a simple gift of an apron and dish cloths from an old French couple who befriended my mother when she was a college student studying in Aix-en-Provence, in southern France. She has stayed in touch with them since the 1970s, and when our family lived in Paris for a year from 1989-1990, we visited them often in their country home. Over the years, their grandchildren would come to stay with us for a couple months in the summer, and a few years ago my brother stayed with them to practice his French. I myself never went, though our family returned to France and visited their home in 1996.
I was happy and touched to receive their gift in the mail a few weeks before the wedding. Then the day before the wedding, in the middle of a crazy day of assembling flowers and putting together lunch for the 15 people who were at our house helping/visiting, the phone rang. I answered. It was Charles, the old man. He told me in a mixture of French and English, how happy he was for me and that he wished me the greatest joy and blessings on my wedding day, that he was praying for us, that he knew God's love would sustain us. I bumbled some thank-yous, understanding his French but unable to respond, and returned to the kitchen where my bridesmaids had finished making lunch. As I sat down at the kitchen table, I couldn't stop crying. I was very emotional that day for many reasons, but nonetheless I was completely surprised at my own reaction to a man I hadn't seen in fifteen years and didn't know very well. I didn't know why his call had touched me so.
At some point in the midst of all these thank-you notes, it clicked.. I have been blessed by the love of many wonderful people throughout my life. There are many special people who have been in my life since childhood, or high school, or college. Hopefully they'll be in my life a long time. But the blessings started before that. There are people who've been in my mother's life for decades. And people who have loved her since 1972 love me, too. At my birth I was already surrounded by the love that my parents had cultivated and given throughout their lives. It's an ever-expanding, international community of friendship and generosity and love, and I was overcome by it.