For months, millions of folks have been obsessing about the pregnancy of April the giraffe. It makes sense that with so much grief in the world we would yearn for some reason to look forward with hope. The story of April and her baby got me thinking about my own mother and another Easter many years ago.
The Oddest Easter Gift
Five feet tall, bright orange with yellow spots and balanced somewhat precariously on four furry legs, its long neck drooped forward to reveal a facial expression as perplexed my own.
Every Easter, right up to the year I moved out at the age of 19, my mother would make up an Easter basket filled with my favorite See’s Candies chocolates and buy me a stuffed animal. That year, it was a giraffe.
I took “Joe Cocker” with me to every home I lived in up to the age of 42, where he would always take up an entire corner of my bedroom – something my boyfriends over the years must have wondered about and possibly a reason why I’m still single. It wasn’t that I was so enamored with the large, fuzzy beast. It certainly never went with any of my décor. Truth be told, I wish she’d chosen something more traditional – and smaller. Perhaps something that had some symbolic connection to the holiday. But then, that would have been ordinary and my mother, who for my high school graduation in 1967 gifted me with my first birth control prescription, was never ordinary. Still, I always wondered what her thinking was behind such an odd choice or mine in carting it around all those years. I do recall that the thought of throwing it away filled me with guilt. Of course, as a Catholic, however lapsed, just about anything can fill me with guilt, but still such a decision would not have been unreasonable as time went by.
I believe now that it may have been my mother’s way of saying “Remember that my love for you is enormous,” as I was about to leave her life and start my own. I wonder what that must have been like for her, living alone for the first time at the age 51, her main purpose – raising me – now over. She died only three years later. Each Easter, I still smile at the memory of walking into the living room that morning so many decades ago and seeing my mother sitting on the couch in her robe, a cup of coffee in her hand, and an expression of excitement on her face as she anticipated my reaction to her surprise.
When I finally decided that the giraffe really did need to move on, I carefully sewed up the torn seams where various cats had used its legs as scratching posts, and donated it to a thrift shop that benefited the local animal shelter where I felt it had the best chance of finding a good home. It’s been several years now and I’d like to believe that on another Easter morning some other child woke up to find this huge expression of their own mother’s love, however odd they may have found it at the time. And that they are still carting it around.