The Gift of the Tattered Rags

Sharon Holtz

It was the 12th of January, Vincentís Birthday, and Catherine was expecting him any moment now.

She anxiously looked about her apartment, mentally taking one last inventory of all her reparations for this special occasion. The tapered candles were lit on the mantle, and the numerous companion votive, and column candles, all were lit as well. His favorite tea steeping, along with some Horderves to serve.

The gifts were ready and wrapped, with pretty satiny ribbons ní bows. And lastly, Vincentís favorite concerto was playing on the stereo. Deciding that everything was just perfect, Catherine confidently decreed to herself, that she was officially ready for his arrival. "Now...if only he will agree to come inside my apartment tonight, then everything WILL be perfect!"

She wanted this little bit of normalcy in their relationship so badly. Was it so wrong of her, to at least want this one small ordinary thing, for him to feel comfortable enough with her, that he would cross her threshold?

She only knew, that she had to trust Vincentís intuition, and that he would know when it was time. And she DID trust him, but she could not deny that her heartís intense desirous wish, was growing stronger and stronger, steadily depleting, and challenging her patience. So tonight she decided to do her best, to convince him to come in from the cold.

Just then, she heard his tap on the frosted pane of her balcony doors. She draped her coat about her shoulders, as she gracefully walked out through the doorway, to join him at his side.

Sweetly she looked up at him, as they stood together at the snow covered balcony wall, and said, "Happy Birthday Vincent..."

Contentedly, he let go of a sigh as he looked toward her, and said, "Yes. Now...being here with you, my day is complete."

Embracing his arm, she replied, "I am so glad that you are here to spend the last part of your Birthday with me."

She then she took in a shivering deep breath, and asked, "Are you cold?"

Looking forward, out over the city, he precisely answered, "No Catherine..."

When suddenly a notion struck him, and he sensed that she was cold. He then slipped off his cloak, and said, "Allow me to help keep you warm."

Biting her lower lip, Catherine hesitantly said, "I was hoping that maybe would come inside my apartment."

As they looked into each others eyes, Vincent could see her hopefulness, and he knew that his reserve concerning this matter, has been a disappointment to her.

He then looked into the window, and saw dozens of illuminated candles twinkling inside, and thought to himself, that it appeared Catherine had gone to some trouble, preparing her dwelling tonight for his birthday. After examining his feelings, he realized that he no longer hosted those hesitant feelings. Tonight...he would say yes. Nonchalantly, he asked, "Is that Vivaldiís I quattro stagioni playing?"

With hope, she answered, "Yes...yes it is."

Questionably, he next suggested, "May I escort you inside, so that we may better enjoy Vivaldiís gifted efforts?"

Stifling her joyful exuberance, she elegantly said, "Yes..."

She then let him guide her inside, and as he looked around her apartment, he was astounded! All the special touches, in HIS honor, caused him to remark, " many candles..."

In a meaningful tone, she told him, "I have a candle burning, to represent each year of your life Vincent."

Warmly, he looked at her, and said, "What a lovely gesture...thank you."

As she slipped off both his cloak and her coat, she said, "You are welcome."

Catherine watched him as she poured their tea, and she thought how perfect he looked inside her home. She imagined Vincent visiting like this, a million times over...and had even dreamt about it. But she wouldnít have to rely on just dreams anymore, because he WAS here! Inside her home, on her turf, where there were none of Fatherís influences, boundaries, or barriers. Now, with a newly found appreciation for Vincentís wise enduring resolve, she thought the occurrence was paced just right in the timeline of their relationship. And she thought too, the timing was just so typical of Vincentís generous heart! For him to choose tonight, of all nights, HIS Birthday...well, it was like his gift to her.

As he stood beside her sofa, waiting for her to be seated, she thought he seemed very much at ease, and uplifted. He no longer looked apologetic about this unique fate that was his to bare. She loved seeing this change in him, because it showed his complete trust in her love, demonstrating that she had moved back his aloneness for him, as he had done for her.

Handing him his tea, she settled in on the sofa, and as he sat down beside her, she asked, "Tell me about your day has your Birthday been so far?"

With a tilt of his head, he warmly said, "Very nice Catherine...William prepared a cake, and the whole community, sang to me. After everyone was served, it was then that I opened my gifts. Mary made a new quilt for my berth, Rebecca poured an exquisite candle as her gift to me, and the children performed a concert in my honor. Afterward, they each presented me with a gift they had made."

Smiling at the sweetness of the children, and of how they loved Vincent so, Catherine had to ask, "What kinds of gifts did the children make for you?"

With an amused manner, Vincent answered, "An assortment of baked clay pen holders, I might mention that I now have one in every color of the rainbow...I received several wooden candle pedestals, in a variety of shapes, and a gaggle of ceramic mugs in different sizes. Oh, and I dare not forget the box that Kipper constructed out of wood! He told me that I should put only my most important secret papers inside of it."

Feeling pleased that his tunnel family spoiled him on his Birthday, she listened as he thoughtfully added, "There were other gifts too, Mouse made a motion wave machine for me."

Shaking his head in wonderment, he shared, "Catherine, even though Mouse is simple in so many ways, he never ceases to amaze me with the things he is able to construct." With a smile in his eyes, Vincent inserted, "Of course the source of his supplies is a mystery..."

Catherine couldnít help but smile as Vincent looked at her in that sweet beguiling style he has. Every time he tilts his head, just a little bit, as if he were a child pondering something, it steals her heart anew. However tonight, there was something new about the look in his eyes, something more. She felt this change so strongly, as if...there was a self justification present now, that wasnít there before. Deciding to mention this difference, she carefully told him, "I sense such a calm about you tonight, I never felt before...the best way that I can explain it, is that you seem to have found an inner peace."

Thoughtfully, he asked, "Do I?"

He then offered, "I suppose I have, and it is because of Fatherís gift to me."

Catherine had noticed earlier, that Vincent mentioned gifts from everyone except his Father, and wondered why. Politely she then asked, "If I may ask, what did he give you?"

In preparation for his answer, he cautioned, "It is not so much what the gift was, rather, it was what it represented. Catherine...this gift has changed my heart, and the rest of my life forever." Raising his brow, he then questioned her, "I brought it with me...would you like to see?"

Excitedly, she said, "Of course, I would love to see the gift that has the power to change your life."

He then reached into his loosely belted vest, and pulled out a bundle of rags. Looking at Catherine, he held her attention for a moment, before he said, "This was Fatherís gift to me."

Confused, of how these strips of material could be construed as a gift, she knitted her brow as she said, "I donít understand Vincent."

He then suggested, "Perhaps I should start at the beginning." Thoughtfully, Vincent explained, "This morning, in the early hours, I could not sleep, I kept thinking about my mother. So, I went to Fatherís chamber to speak with him. I asked him what kind of a woman must she have been, to have discarded me so heartlessly. Father then brought out this bundle of rags from a musty old pine box. And he said, that until that moment, he wasnít sure why, he saved them. However, because of the state I was in, he hoped they might mean something to me. When I examined the worn strips of material, I degraded them, causing Father to scold me. He then declared they were as valuable to him, as a pot of gold."

Vincent continued, "The significance of these rags still alluded me, and I wondered why Father wanted me to have them. Then he told me, if it were not for this meager small bundle of rags to protect me from the chilling winds, that cold night, I would have surely died..." Vincent incredulously added, "...Catherine, these are what I had been wrapped in, when Anna found inheritance...the only thing I truly own."

Catherine gasped, as she now looked at this material through different eyes. Carefully, almost reverently, she reached over to touch this precious keepsake, and said, "Oh think that you were wrapped only in the middle of January...a tiny helpless baby..."

She then looked up at Vincent with tears brimming in her eyes, and said, "You told me that this gift changed your heart? How so? I still donít understand."

Vincent further explained, "Catherine...I now have tangible proof my birth mother cared enough to wrap something around me...she cared whether I lived or died. Because of Father, I now know that I must have been of some worth to her."

Catherine cried a little bit, as she said, "I now you know that she did love you as much as she could..."

In a soft husky whisper, Vincent said yes, and then speculated, "I wonder...if anyone but I, can truly understand the power of such an unlikely gift of these tattered old rags Father handed over to me?"

Catherine smiled as she wiped her tears away, and argued, "I do. I understand...after are sitting here with me tonight arenít you? This is something that hasnít happened before...and I have wished for it, for such a very long time."

With a contemplative blinking of his eyes, Vincent said, "Perhaps you do understand Catherine ...perhaps you do."

He then closed his eyes, and as he brought Catherine closer to him, he said, "It has been a time..."

Sweetly she snuggled into his arms, and as she looked up at this sleepy birthday boy, who was more beautiful to her than any Greek God, she whispered, "Yes it has been...Happy Birthday Vincent."