The main craft Allyson wanted to make was a decorative cemented tile for the garden; she'd seen the idea in an art book. Bill had to gather all the supplies for us and tell me how to mix the mortar, which almost made Allyson give up on the idea as she had wanted it to be a surprise.
It was messy and fun, and we both enjoyed it. Following Bill's instructions, I added just enough water to make the mortar thick like peanut butter, and we slathered it over the back of a spare ceramic tile. We gathered smooth pebbles from around the base of the pool, and Allyson arranged them to say "I
She lovingly made him a card that said "A is for Allyson. That stands for love." And on the inside, she said:
She tried to throw that card away because she'd made a mistake on the other inside flap, and then she'd tried to cover it up and made a mess with glue and paper. "You can't throw this away, Allyson," I said. "Daddy will love it because you made it. It doesn't have to be perfect."
She also decorated a picture frame and we put her Kindergarten graduation picture in it. And then she signed the card she had bought when Nana and Grandpa were here for her birthday last week.
We served Bill one of his favorite meals, fettucini alfredo, in the dining room with sparkling cider in wine glasses. Even though he came home with a tummy ache from a greasy burger at lunch, he still ate our fettucini, and I loved him for that.
Watching him open his presents was such a sweet pleasure. I realized with joy that the old feelings of insecurity about Allyson being such a daddy's girl were gone. I am so thankful for the special bond they share.
I saved my gift for last, and I was nervous. Because he's been traveling more lately for work, I bought him a fancy laptop case. It was quite extravagant, and I was hesitant to buy it because Bill is a practical person and he already had a functional laptop case. But this case had his name written all over it.
He loved it! He examined it thoroughly, searching every pocket and flap. "It's so stylish," he said, and I flushed with pleasure.
In the morning, after he'd left for Arkansas (carrying the new laptop case), I went out in the backyard to take a picture of the tile, which he had set next to the one he and Allyson made for me last Mother's Day.
I wondered if I had truly appreciated all the work that went into that stone. And I looked at the garden behind the stones and felt a stab of regret at all the weeds that have overtaken our beloved family garden. I've neglected it this year, just like I have neglected many things that needed my attention. I realized in a moment how self-absorbed I've been, wrapped up in unimportant things like baking bread and making muffins and running all over creation instead of spending time with my family.
That's why when Allyson asked me to sit next to her on the swing, I said yes even though it felt like it was already approaching 90 degrees (32 Celsius) at only 10:30 in the morning. I sat on the swing next to her and closed my eyes, enjoying (briefly) the warmth of the sun settling over me like a blanket. I felt the fragile beauty of this life God has given me with startling sharpness, and it took my breath away.
Allyson came and sat in my lap. "I think we're too heavy," I warned, but I couldn't push her away. I snuggled her close and swayed in the swing, breathing in her familiar scent. And then... we started to fall, seemingly in slow motion. Down we went in a pile on the ground. The swing had split!
Thankfully, neither of us was hurt. We had a good laugh together. "Maybe this swing set needs to go," I said.
"No, I love this swing set. Daddy and Grandpa built it for me when I was two. And even Ethan helped."
You know what's funny about the garden? Even though it's been sadly neglected, this year we are getting a bigger harvest than ever. There are lots of flowers, promising cantaloupes and cucumbers. Bill has picked green beans three times, and once we got over 20 of them!
May we reap a similar harvest in our family!