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A Most Unusual Personal Gift

Updated on March 21, 2013

It was a most unusual and personal gift. For its size, it was as light as air in its beautifully wrapped box. As I unwrapped it, I guess I thought it was the typical gift card or gift certificate, disguised in a large box to mask its identity.

Our family is quite creative when it comes to disguising gifts. We've been known to add a brick to a box for weight, or to hide smaller gifts inside the cardboard tube of a roll of toilet paper. The curse in our family is when you are the chosen one; the one who gets a gift wrapped in twenty layers (or more) of gift wrap. It happens at random so each celebration is cause for concern as we wonder who will be the recipient of the curse this time. You never know because it’s never planned. It just happens. And oddly, it only happens to one of us, each holiday. It’s safe to say that our family has some strange traditions. We are a family that loves to laugh and we enjoy a good tease better than most.

These were the thoughts that drifted through my mind as I looked at this rather large gift that weighed almost nothing. Could it be that I was the chosen one this time? Was this the gift that would leave us in tears of laughter, as I peeled off layer after layer of the paper that kept the real gift hidden from view?

What a production I made as I slowly opened the taped ends of the first layer. If they were going to watch me undo all those layers, I was going to make it painful for them. I’m like that sometimes – a little defiant and rebellious.

To my surprise, there wasn't a second layer. Underneath the beautiful wrapping was a plain cardboard sleeve. Three sides were taped to contain the mysterious content. Protruding from the fourth side was something that looked like any run-of-the-mill craft paper. I gently grasped the end and pulled. What I discovered left me speechless.

This most unusual gift was magnificent: a hand-crafted, three dimensional collage of my life. It contained objects that depicted anything and everything I had ever done or loved. There was the lapel button from the non-profit I started in 1994 and the shoe from my first Barbie doll. Ah, look, a piece of amethyst from my rock collection and a string of sinew from my leather-crafting days. Wow, look at that little dream-catcher and hey, there’s Yanni, one of my favorite musicians and Neil Young and Stevie Nicks too. Wait, what’s that? Ha ha ha, it’s a Band-Aid and a syringe from my days as a young phlebotomist. And there’s Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon from my days as a Cancer Registrar and a box tab from my favorite chocolate-covered raisins and an ad for my favorite coffee. There’s a piece of fabric from my favorite dress and a newspaper clipping from a political op-ed I wrote and my dog and, a silhouette of my favorite tree. And yes, there it is, the POW/MIA lapel pin for those I didn't forget – the ones that haven’t come home.

The most unusual gift - the collage of my life.
The most unusual gift - the collage of my life.

Seeing and touching all the treasures in this collage was such fun, and then it hit me. This was not a gift to take lightly. It was a gift from my sister-in-law: a quiet observer of my life who had really listened all those years. I thought about the many months she must have spent collecting all the images or objects that made up the collage. Only someone who had really heard me could have done it this well. Only someone who had cared enough to listen, to really hear me, could have made such a magnificent gift. And I began to think. What would a collage of my life look like if someone else had made it? What do others know about me?

This was a pivotal moment in my life, for I realized that each time we speak, we create an image of who we are. Each action becomes part of the fabric - a strand in the woven landscape of what we have become. Our involvement in the world, in things we care about - a stroke of color on the canvas of our character. I understood, in that pivotal moment, that I am the source, the creator of the image others have of me. What surrounds me tells others who I am and what I care about. And I wondered, does this collage tell the story I would like it to tell?

I have this most unusual gift hanging in a place of honor. I look at it often and remind myself that the dash between the date we are born and the date we die is the canvas of our life’s collage. And I ask myself – what do I need to do to ensure that it tells a story I can be proud of?

What would a collage of your life say about you?

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.

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  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Eddy! Thanks for the visit today. I am so glad you enjoyed this hub. I was so touched by this gift and still enjoy studying all the little nuances of my life that were placed so lovingly in the collage. I thought is was certainly a gift worthy of sharing. Thanks again!

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

    What a wonderful hub;I truly loved it;so original and useful Here's to so many more from you. Have a greatl day.

    Eddy.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Babergirl28 - hello! It was a great gift, wasn't it? I had so much fun looking at all the little mementos of my life. It's fascinating to see what someone really does know about you. Thank you for sharing it with me.

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    What a great gift. I would love to see what someone would come up with if they were to do a collage of my life. So amazing to have someone that has listened and was able to collect all this information without even you realizing it!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Gosh La Thing, thank you for spending some time on my hub. I'm blushing from your comment. Sometimes when I feel a little low (not often though), I look at this collage and realize how full and wonderful my life has been. It really is one of my most favorite gifts. I'm so glad you enjoyed this.

  • LaThing profile image

    LaThing 5 years ago from From a World Within, USA

    What a wonderful reflection on a moment of your life that tells a lot about you! Beautiful and mesmerizing hub..... And such a great idea for a gift. Thanks for sharing, Linda :)

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

    Not as much as I, Linda!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Too cute bravewarrior. I hope you get the chance to find those boots one day.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

    Irc, I could never recoup the items and love behind them! As far as the bra thing, we were both pretty much flat chested back in those days. I went from trainer to A cup. Alice got my trainer! Ha ha.

    Yanni. Oh, my Lord, Yanni! His tickets are expensive but when he comes to Orlando, I go see him! The last concert I attended was his "Touch of Truth" concert. It was in a small theater. I was 5 rows from the stage! I could see the muscles in his arms and how smooth his skin is! He even spoke to me when I yelled out from the audience! You know how you get those moments when the room is silent and you say something you wish no one had heard? Well, the room was silent (for a moment), I yelled out a comment, he turned to face me, outstretched his arm and spoke directly to my face! I have a picture of it. I am such a Yanni groupie it's ridiculous.

    He actually docks his boat at the marina in South Florida that my brother frequents, who's an avid fisherman. He helped Yanni batten down the hatches when hurricanes were looming a couple of summers ago. I'll tell you what - Yanni could park his boots under my bed any day! Whoo hoo!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi bravewarrior. So, you've seen Yanni 3 times? I'm jealous.

    It makes me sad that you lost your scrapbook with all those memories. Have you thought of trying to recreate it, minus the bra you outgrew? lol I know you were just bragging. Seriously though, you could make your own scrapbook of those good old days but if you're like me, you'd better hurry while you can still remember them.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

    What a fabulous subject for a hub! So relfective and I love your relfection brought forth by the gift. Wow!

    When I left Philly to move to Jersey (from 8th grade to beginning high school) my friends got together and threw me a surprise party. My best friend, Alice, put together a scrap book of our friendship througout the years. It was amazing. She included her first bra (I'd handed it down to her when I outgrew it!), a 45 of "Jerimiah Was a Bullfrog" and many other items depicting our years together. I don't know what happened to it; I just know I no longer have it. After reading this, I surely wish I had those memories not only in my mind, but brought forth to today. I wish I had that scrap book to bring smile to my face!

    The gift you received is one to be cherished. Don't ever lose or misplace it!

    BTW, Yanni is my favorite, too. I've seen him in concert three times! Awesome, awesome man!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello junko! Thanks for your kind comment. We humans have a lot to learn still, don't we?

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks Gypsey48. I am still amazed at how this gift has touched me. Thank you for sharing it with me.

  • junko profile image

    junko 5 years ago

    This is truly a story to be told. One we may have knowned, but never thought about. Very useful.

  • Gypsy48 profile image

    Gypsy48 5 years ago

    Awesome hub, what a thoughtful and caring sister-in- law you have. That is a precious gift:)

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi pstraubie48! Thanks for taking the time to read this piece and to comment. Isn't it easy to forget that someone is watching? lol

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Yes, Bill, reflection is sometimes easier than introspection. lol I took the easy way out today. The collage was quite an interesting gift. Few of us have the opportunity to see our lives laid out in front of us like this. I have often said that the collage is not the most visually appealing gift I've received but it certainly is one of the most special. I could write a mini-novel on the indifividual items it contained; things I thought no one had noticed. As always, I thank you for reading and am happy to share this new journey of mine with you.

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

    What a sweet story. Gifts like that make us realize that others are taking notice of how our lives are unfolding. I must admit I get a little misty-eyed when I receive one of those. What a special lady your sister-in-law is and she obviously feels the same about you .

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Ah, yes, a reflective piece I can sink my teeth into; well done my friend, and I have no doubt your collage speaks of a caring, loving human being who has done her best on this journey.