A little over eight years ago, I was in the hospital after giving birth to my son via cesarean section (not on purpose). My family from New York was not there, neither for the birth nor afterwards when we took our newborn son home. This is something that I knew would be the case. It is one of those things that you have to accept when you move far from home. When you move so far your mother jokingly says that you are in a different country. So I was in this dark, teeny room at Kapiolani Hospital that overlooked the air conditioning units on the roof. For some reason I was by myself. My son was likely in the nursery (is that what they call it?) and who knows where his dad (a.k.a. LKY) was (maybe ran home for a shower and change of clothes?). And then I found myself feeling exceptionally sad or maybe overwhelmed; so sad and overwhelmed that I was crying. At that exact moment of my mini-pity party one of LKY’s aunties (Aunt C.) came into my room. She had one of her grandchildren with her. He had been having some significant teeth problems and needed to visit the hospital. I remember that she quietly came to into my darkened room. Something that she did not have to do at all. In reality, I hardly knew her and she hardly knew me. LKY’s family is significantly larger than mine and sometimes at family get togethers I would feel pretty overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that were there. My dad is an only child and my mom has one sister. I have two first cousins. LKY has more than triple that number just on his dad’s side. I have to admit that even after all this time I still get flummoxed when some of the members of the larger extended family show up. So Aunt C. comes to my room and I am embarrassed that I am crying. Caught in the act as it were. I cleaned myself up enough to have a bit of a chat with her. Truth be told, I have no idea what we said. The thing I do remember is that she gave me a giraffe. A yellow giraffe stuffed animal that played a lullaby when he was wound up. It was likely the first gift my son ever received. I have to admit that I was pretty touched. It was exactly what I needed at that exact moment. And such a small thing to be so big.
I have told that story so many times to so many people but I have never talked about it with Aunt C. And then on New Year’s Eve, just the other night, I found myself sitting across the table from her. She was looking out at the park where all of the kids were running around. We started chatting about random things. And then for some reason, I found myself talking to her about that day in the hospital. About being alone. And her visit with the giraffe. She said that she remembered. Then I thanked her and I told her that she had touched my heart that day. I actually felt myself getting a bit emotional. I couldn’t help it. It is so unlike me. I am usually shut up, closed up tightly like a fist. Generally there is no access. And here I was at a loud and crowded family get together tearing up and expressing thanks. I can absolutely guarantee you that there was no eye contact to be had from me while this was taking place.
Thinking about this today, I felt kind of good about it. I felt good that I was able to tell Aunt C., who is not having the easiest time of it, that she made a difference in my life at that moment. One that I remember and continue to be grateful for. My initial takeaway of this was that I would try to do this more often; to loosen the fist; to tell someone that I appreciate them; that I love them even. It seemed perfectly doable when I had had two glasses of wine in me. Thinking about this today however, it definitely seems a more difficult proposition than my drink addled brain thought. So while I may still try this noble effort I also thought that maybe being on the giving end of some small gestures might be a good idea as well. To be the deliverer of small, yellow giraffes throughout the year. To those close to me and not so close. And maybe through these small gestures it will help me to try, at least a bit, to open up a crack. Small, yellow giraffes: a gateway to healthier emotional relationships? With a new year, anything is possible.