When Annie was born, as I am sure is the case for all parents upon the arrival of their firstborn, we were showered with gifts. Showered, though, is an understatement. We were literally up to our ears, buried, swimming in gifts. We received packages daily that were flown across the ocean. When family members flew to Rome to meet Annie for the first time, their suitcases were overflowing with gifts sent with them from people back home, many of whom Michael and I had never met before. The amount of love and support we received and continue to receive will never be forgotten.
For at least the first two years of her life her closet will look like this….
There are over 60 dresses that currently reside in her wardrobe that are sized 12-18 months. I kid you not. These are only the dresses that currently fit her. This does not include her dresser filled with t-shirts, onesies, pj’s, and pants. It does not include the bins and bins of clothing sized 0-12 months. All gifts! Excessive, of course. But every time I open that overflowing wardrobe, I am reminded of the overflowing love in our lives, the overflowing love for our Annie. And as I dress her each day, I tell her about the person back home who bought her this dress and how much they would love to see her in it.
That’s the best part about gifts. It’s not the physical, material thing. It’s remembering the love behind them. Like remembering my parents’ best friends from their time as students in Rome, the Feldners, as we sip wine from the glasses we received from them for our wedding. Or bringing home fresh flowers to fill the vase from “Aunt” Mickey. When I am sick, I immediately go to my tea box and am reminded of my best friend, Danielle, who always took care of me after every surgery in high school.
Annie has been given SO many gifts. She has gifts from all over the world. Teddy bears from Berlin, Poland, Annville, PA, and London. Beautiful beads from Jordan and Germany. Handcrafted Italian dolls. Authentic clogs from the Netherlands. Handmade blankets and booties from Italian grandmothers. Quilts, clothing, toys, and books from the U.S.A. An Italian traditional coral bracelet for luck. A beautiful camel from Tunisia. The list goes on and on. Her room is adorned with them and in each corner is a story for us to share with her of our friend who traveled here or there and thought of her.
Sitting among her books, just under her hand painted clogs, is one of my favorite gifts of all.
It is a hand carved wooden box. It was made with love by the cousin of our dear friend, Maria, in the small town of Bagnoli Irpino in Avellino, Italy. When Annie was only a few weeks old, Maria presented us with this gorgeous box. The details are incredible. On the inside of the lid of the box is a carved inscription that reads “Roma Aprile 2011. a Annie Kathleen con tutto il mio amore….Zia Maria.” Which translates to the simple message of…Rome, April 2011 To Annie Kathleen with all my love, Zia Maria.
Just looking at the box anyone can tell it is special. But having it in my hands I was overwhelmed and thought, “I must find a very special purpose for this amazing gift.” And so it has become Annie’s treasure box.
So many times as we meet new people visiting the campus here in Rome, they make the comment, “What a shame! She won’t remember any of this. Of her time here and all her travels.” So we decided to give her a way to remember. Every time we travel to a new town or country we purchase or find something very small for Annie’s box. This way when she is older, all she will have to do is open the box to remember all the places she has been.
So far the box contains the cap she wore the night she was born. This will remind her that she couldn’t wait for Mommy and Daddy to prepare for her arrival and came four weeks early. Her hat, as evidenced in photos, was entirely too big. Underneath the cap, is her “coming home outfit,” a gift from Carla, Anna, Nadia, and Maria. Who all knew Mom hadn’t had the time to purchase one before her early arrival. Because of this, Annie will know that thanks to them, she got to come home in something pink rather than yellow or green or gender neutral.
In the opposite corner lies her first pair of baby booties. Italian baby booties are gorgeous and every baby should have a pair. She wore these for the first two months of her life. Folded in the bottom of the box is Annie’s baptismal bib from her baptism at the Vatican. The rest of the contents include treasures from all of the places she’s been. A hand painted egg from Krakow. A double decker bus from London. A tiny hand painted key from Tunisia. A rock from the beaches of Ischia. A shell from the sand on the shore of Minturno. A music box from Paris. (Annie hasn’t been there yet. It is a gift from her Aunt Rachel who spent the last semester here in Rome with her. We hope one day the two of them will explore the Louvre or walk the halls of Versailles Palace together).
By her second birthday we have plans to add treasures from Greece and Sicily,and to hopefully add many more. She is only fifteen months and has so many wonderful memories. Yes, we know she won’t “actually” remember them. But we are keeping them for her. Her life already has been so enriched. Yes, by the gifts she has been given. But SO much more by the people behind the gifts. The people back home who love her so much already and from so far away, who have only met her a handful of times. The people here in Rome, who hardly knew her mother when she was born, and that she now considers aunts and uncles. We love you so much. Thank you all for the beautiful gifts, but more importantly for your support and love!