When things keep happening over and over again, we’re supposed to take notice. Unlike when the things in question are bad (a cold with broken ribs? Really universe?) I’m not ready for this to stop.
The theme that is on a loop for me is Christmas: Unexpected gifts.
I’m not talking about the kind wrapped in paper and ribbon, but of the ones wrapped in the emotions of gossamer memories.
There is a sticker feature on my Messenger phone app — a way to add a little cartoon image to a note. The one I use the most is an adorable, chubby white bear holding a red, heart-shaped balloon. When I put the image into a message, it’s still, but when the message is read for the first time the window fills with animated, red hearts floating upward.
That’s the kind of gift I’m talking about: not under the tree but in little experiences.
This month a photographer I sometimes work for needed help checking in attendees to a father-daughter dance at a local school. Father/daughter dances aren’t a part of my personal history. I never went to one as a daughter, my husband never took our daughter to one, either. It was a job, a fun job, but still a job.
Soon a line of kindergarten through fifth-grade girls and their fathers and father-figures were in front of me waiting to be photographed. My duties were rote:
Get them to the photographer.
It was a job.
And then it was a magical moment.
Like the stationary, yet adorable, bear with a red balloon, a little girl in a sparkling red dress and her father stepped up to my work table. She wasn’t smiling and her eyes were big with nervousness.
“Hi,” I said to her. “I like your dress.”
“Thank you,” she said and then the nerves disappeared. Her face lit up with a giant smile, she took one step backward…and spun around. It was a simple dance by a 7-year-old but the glitter of her skirt and the instant smile of delight on her face was a real life, non-cartoon surprise moment.
She stopped as fast as she started, giggled, looked up at her father and smiled.
And, of course he smiled back.
And so did I.
The girls were all in pretty dresses, sparkling sweaters, and glittery shoes; they all had fancy, party hair-styles and they all had a look of pride in their eyes as they stood with the men who brought them. As it played out in front of me it was a bit corny incarnate, but it was also a lot of love embodied.
“You look beautiful,” I told another little girl a few minutes later.
“Thank you,” she said and I followed her eyes as she looked up at her father standing tall in his crisp military dress uniform.
“Wow!” I said to her.
“Yeah.” She nodded, her face told me she knew she was with the most handsome man there that night.
The best part was I saw that look over and over on other girls’ faces.
And I saw a mirror one on their dates’ faces.
When the line slowed, I followed the loud music. The school gym was strung with white fairy lights; the dance floor covered in low balloons and little girls twirled through them.
And their dates twirled and danced along.
As they all sang in unison with Taylor Swift’s Our Song, I wondered how many of them would have their own version of of this Taylor Swift lyric that night:
“And when I got home, before I said amen,
Asking God if He could play it again.”
If you look, you’ll find them over and over again, and I wish you all as many magical, delightful and unexpected gifts as your heart can hold this holiday.