Everyday holiness

For Chris, who missed the excitement

It was one of the best gifts my family ever received. In fact, family members screamed with delight when the gift arrived – a gift made possible by the generosity of my daughter-in-law.

It was midsummer and our family had rented a cottage on the Brewster flats of Cape Cod. Our kids, now in their 20s, still love to accompany us to the Cape for what has become our favorite week of the year. Each summer we rent a different cottage, spending endless hours combing the beach and building intricate sand castles, confident that this time it will hold back the mighty tide. The little ones chortle with glee as they splash through the puddles chasing minnows.

This particular year nearly everyone joined us except Skip and his family. Skip is our oldest child and the only boy. His sisters, Meredith, Tierney and Torrie, revere him. We were all terribly disappointed that their schedule did not permit them to come.

We arrived at the cottage Saturday afternoon lugging fishing tackle and flip flops and homemade guacamole. Meredith watched as her 18-month-old son Gabriel gleefully barreled through the house and climbed onto each chair like Goldilocks visiting the three bears. Everything was an adventure.

My favorite part of the first day is always Torrie’s arrival. She is our youngest (at 23), and for as long as I can remember, she has begun her vacation by bolting into the cottage and racing from room to room to expose its treasures. Last year she especially liked the small porch that became home to evening board games. Torrie quickly gave her seal of approval. In our family, that’s important.

We unpacked, went to Mass, then returned to the cottage to celebrate Torrie’s birthday. We ate her favorite foods, including a delectable flourless chocolate cake made by Meredith. Gifts were opened, toasts were offered and many laughs were shared. Even so, as Tierney and her husband Andrew spearheaded the clean-up, there was a palpable longing, a hole in the fabric of the family. We missed Skip and Kait.

Back in Connecticut, my daughter-in-law Kait had spent the day at the bridal shower of a cousin on my side of the family. Not only did Kait miss our vacation; she had to represent the rest of us in our absence. Her attendance was way beyond the call of duty.

After the shower, Kait made the long drive home to a noisy house full of small children. She and Skip got the kids fed, cleaned up and dressed for bed. Then Kait handed Skip her remarkable gift.

The gift was delivered to us three hours later. It was 10 Saturday evening on Cape Cod and we were gathered in the living room of the cottage discussing what to do next. “Does anyone want to play the card game 99?” someone suggested. A male voice from the shadows responded, “I do.”

It was Skip.

We screamed and jumped on him and kissed his face and barraged him with questions. It turns out that at the last minute, Kaitlyn was able to arrange her work schedule to allow Skip to join us for 36 hours while she stayed behind with the little ones. She did it as a gift to us.

We enjoyed every minute with him. There was body surfing at Nauset Beach and Frisbee on the flats and the mandatory trip for ice cream. Tierney’s husband Andrew took pictures of the four siblings goofing around together as they thanked God for Kait’s generosity.

Years ago when Skip and Kaitlyn were married, we gave her the precious gift of our son. Last summer on Cape Cod, she loaned him back to us for a little while. People say the best gifts come in small packages, but they’re wrong. The best gifts come from sacrificial love.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living