A gift that got delayed... for Writer's Cramp
|Today, I found that box yet again while cleaning the loft. The gift wrap had faded a little more and the box seemed to have shrunk in size. It must have been nine years since it had arrived.
I was eleven when we moved into this house. It was just before Christmas and the tenants were vacating. My mom had asked for a forwarding address for the tenants, who consisted of only a mother and a little boy of about five. They were migrating to France. The lady responded with a wry smile that nothing worth forwarding was expected for them, hence there was no need to bother.
We started off with a grand Christmas at our new home. My father was working with an automobile company and was transferred here. It was the first house (and the only one as it turned out) my parents owned. We all loved it.
Bills and promotional stuff kept coming for a few weeks for the earlier tenants, which my mother promptly put in the trash. Then, the day before Christmas, this particular box arrived. Red gift wrap with satin ribbons and address written in beautiful, artistic handwriting.
I was tempted to open the box and asked my mom whether I could.
“Are you Tom Joyce?” she smiled and asked me.
“Then you are not supposed to.”
“But he is not going to get it anyway.”
“Let us try to get the address from the previous owners.”
My mother tried calling them, but unfortunately, they also did not have a forwarding address. They told her that the tenant’s ex-husband had already contacted them for it, but they were helpless, and promised to let her know, in case they came to know.
“What now?” I asked her, still hopeful, but she just said “Keep it, you could give it to him some day.”
So, it went up in the loft, and stayed there. I had my share of gifts always, hence, this was totally forgotten, except on the rare occasions when the loft was opened.
Life had been perfect till I was sixteen. We celebrated five fabulous Christmases here. Not just Christmas, birthdays, thanks giving, and just life. Looking back, we were celebrating all year.
Then my mom was detected with Breast Cancer. She was consumed by pain and my father and I by worry and grief. Prominent dates in calendar were the Chemotherapy sessions for my mother and her home coming from the hospital. One surgery, then another, a year or so of peace, then the shocking news that the cancer had speared to lungs, and there was nothing much to be done for her. Within three years of the first symptoms, we lost her. When she finally went, it was almost a relief, as it was hard to watch her suffer.
My father and I tried to support each other through the loss, my aunts and grandparents helped too. Anyway, life was never the same. When I joined college, my father said it would be difficult to continue here alone and wanted to move to a rented facility near his office. We decided to let out our home and I have taken up cleaning.
It is nearly Christmas, and almost ten months since my mother left us. Obviously, no tree, no decorations and no mom to give gifts.
I weighed the box in my palm and tried to asses what it contained, but I could not guess. That was when a thought occurred to me, Tom can probably be traced, now?
We have internet and social media; would it be impossible to find a Tom Joyce who lived in France, had black hair and blue eyes and who had spent his childhood at this address?
And the quest started. I combed through social media with the help of my friends. After a few futile attempts, we came across a profile who fit the name and looks.
I waited for him to come online and texted him.
“Hello, I am Steve, I am looking for some info, can you help?”
I posted the scanned image of the address on the box.
“Do you recognise this address?”
A few moments of silence. The tool said he was typing something… probably he was typing, removing and typing again.
“It is my father’s handwriting” Came the reply “Do you have a letter for me?”
“Sorry to give false hope.” I responded “This is from a gift box that arrived soon after you moved out of the address, long back. But we did not have your forwarding address.”
“Ah…” he typed “I have not heard from him since we moved. He used to write before that.”
“Oh…okay…pardon me for prying…I take it that your parents were separated even before?”
“Yes, my mother’s parents are in Paris. We moved back after the divorce.”
“I am Sorry.”
A few moments, and then “Can you open the box for me?”
“I can send it to you if you want.”
“No… now that you contacted, I cannot wait.”
“Can you give me your number? Shall we have a video call?”
“Yes, please, that will be great.”
I connected him and carefully undid the ribbons and opened the box.
It contained a soft tennis ball, a letter, and a few family photographs from which a father, mother and a small boy beamed.
Tom, the tall boy at the other end, wiped his tears. “I had thought he abandoned me, all these years!”
After the call, I scanned the letter and the photographs, and sent him. I did not read the letter, but just the ending by chance, ‘Aunt Jenny and I will be moving soon. Write to me at the below address. Lots of love, Dad.’
“Now, let me try to trace him.” he said and I wished him luck.
“Mom”, I thought as I closed my fingers around the ball. “Merry Christmas! I wish there is some way to trace you where you are!”