#GivingTuesday -- Giving Thanks - Part 2
It's often the ones who have least who give the most, for those who give what they have when they can know what it is to go without. While Jaicobh and Calleen both grew up with extreme privation, they live a better but humble life now, and while they are in a position to give to their children and grandchildren, receiving gifts in return is an emotional but not unwelcome practice.
Sheamas laughed and removed his hat. “Sorry, Da,” said he, in a considerate tone. “I didn’t think you’d get that sentimental over it.” He scratched his head. “It was just a small thing we found intown. The boys came over to the shop and saw it on the way back to the castle. They were looking for a gift for you and Ma, and they said that had to be it.”
“Aye…” said Jaicobh fondly, feeling his sentiments against prevail him. “Well, if it had to be, then that’s how it is—but no more presents from here on,” pointing at his daughter. “I’m the one who’s supposed to be spoilin’ you, and,” glancing at Sheamas, “I got a lot o’ spoilin’ to make up for.”
“I think Sheamas and I can safely promise never to give you any present that isn’t cured meat,” said Boudicca.
Practical gifts, Jaicobh could always allow for, but before he could demand that his children absolutely promise never to give him anything again, Alasdair came forward and said, “Maith Ailneighdaeth, Jaicobh,” offering him a small wrapped parcel. “Thank you for having us. It was very kind of you to invite us, and we’re very glad to be here.”
The old farmer tried not to look terribly distressed and accepted the gift with a very good grace, insisting that he should be happy to open it later with the other gifts after dinner. “This is cheatin’ now,” Jaicobh said to his children. “How can I refuse anythin’ giving to me by the Majesty?”
“You can’t,” said Boudicca, with a broad grin. “Alasdair, all the family shall now give all presents meant for my father to you, and you may imprison him if he refuses.”
After seeing how reluctant Mr MacDaede was to accept anyone’s unbidden generosity, Alasdair agreed by saying an unassuming, “Fair enough,” and went to retrieve the other presents waiting in the cart. “Carrigh, darling,” calling to his wife, “do you have all the socks there?”
“The Majesty didn’t bring the whole castle with him, did he, darling?” said Jaicobh quietly to his daughter. “The carvin’ was more than enough.”
“The stone piece was from the children, father,” Boudicca replied, “but you have many other relatives now, all of whom will ignore your pleas for self-imposed moderation. You always wished for our families to be united, and this is your penance for such a wish.”
“Aye,” Jaicobh acknowledged, with a wistful aspect. “Well, I always thought of having at least you and Shea together. I always wanted the two o’ you to spend at least the holidays in one house-- and o’ course having Calleen and Shayne there too. I didn’t know if I would ever get it, havin’ all of you together like that. Thought five was the most family I’d ever have round a table, and then Shayne and Martje got married while I was gone, bringin’ the families closer together, and then me and Calleen—and havin’ Aiden and Adaoire and Lochan so close...” Jaicobh paused and looked mindful. “Aiden and Adaoire sure oughtta be like sons after what they did for us.”
“And you for them, Da,” said Sheamas.
“Well, all I did was ask for an early apprenticeship. They’re they ones what had to do the work. They're good boys,” nodding with mindful consideration, and then giving Sheamas a penetrating look, “you’re all good boys, you and Aiden and Adaoire and Lochan. Breigh is as responsible and hard working as you could ask, Cabhrin is a master sailor, and Shirse—Borras, you can hear him hawkin’ prices from the next town over. Aye, they're good boys. I know Calleen wishes they were around more, but what loving ma don't want her boys around all the time?”
“There are plenty of parents who cannot wait to rid of their children,” said Boudicca. She eyed her mate, who was glaring at a spider nestled in the corner of the farmhouse window, his hand wrapped firmly around the hilt of his sword, his eyes blazing in fierce indignation.
“Well,” Jaicobh chuckled, “some o’ you young-uns need a bit o’ time on yer own. Some o’ you gotta ripen up a bit.”
“Rautu should be a well-aged bitter stout by now,” said Alasdair, helping Carrigh take the presents out of the cart.
The commander could not help laughing. “He cannot hear you, Alasdair. He is far too busy wondering how he’s going to kill a certain spider without burning the house down.”
“The undu is outside,” Rautu observed. He looked skyward. “It will not survive long in your winter.”
“There, you see? He need only camp by the window and wait to watch the spider wither in wretched agony.”
“Probably one Calleen put outside the house,” said Jaicobh, or maybe one o’ those what was sent away by its parents.”
Here was a wink, and Sheamas and Boudicca laughed and affectionately pressed their shoulder against their father’s arm.
“Folk who send their young-uns away don’t know how to appreciate bein’ a parent,” said Jaicobh. “Mas and Das got a few years with our babes before they’re all grown, and then we gotta make it seem like it don’t hurt when they leave. I’m glad the Gods took me before I had to watch you leave the house, darlin’,” turning to Boudicca, “My heart couldn’t take you leavin’.”
Boudicca would have said she should have never left her father’s house had necessity and retaliation not borne her away, and though she must own that leaving her family farm and joining the forces was her deliberate vocation, she said only, “You did have to die to get me gone.”
“Well, I’m here now, and so are you, and shise shin,” Jaicobh humphed. He put his arm around Sheamas’ shoulders. “I got all my children here with me,” said he, in a thoughtful hue, “A man couldn’t be happier.” He gave a tearful sigh, and then, feeling every feeling of sanguine misery reviving, he said, “’Mon in the house. Yer ma’s got the tea on,” ushering everyone in and moving inside himself, wiping any tears away with the back of his hand before any of his guests could descry him.
Shayne unhitched the mule and game to the door, and while Martje was bringing in all the dishes she carried with her from the capital to the house, Shayne exchanged pleasantries and hearty pats with his beloved friend. A few words in Frewyn were said, some offered for the benediction of the day, which ended in the observation of “It’s cold enough to break yer bhainne,” and Jaicobh laughed, bringing Shayne and the whole party further into the house.
Calleen was waiting in the main room with tea and warm blankets, sitting at the head of the small table, her hand over her eyes and the children gathered about her, all of them looking woefully concerned.
“Den Iimaa, why are you crying?” ask Soledhan.
“”Cause you wee-uns are murderin’ me,” she sobbed into her hand.
Dorrin did not quite understand this and looked bemused. “How, Great Aunt Cal?”
“”Cause my poor old heart can’t take how sweet y’are.” She leaned forward from her chair and gathered the children together. “Sure love you, lads,” she crooned, the tears cascading down her cheeks, forming tributaries in her deep wrines. “Here, sit there and have some warm milk and chocolate and I’ll dry my old eyes.” She sniffed and patted her eyes with a cloth, declaring, “You wee lads’ll be the end o’ me, sure,” but she stopped when Soledhan hopped off his chair and hastened toward her.
“You should have some chocolate too, Den Iimaa,” said Soledhan, tugging at her skirt. “You’ll feel better. Utaa feels better when he has some.”
Calleen simpered with all the good humou that could be requisite, her eyes crinkling with smile lines. “So he does, mho chri. Aye, I’ll have some with you lads then. Jaicobh,” she implored as her husband came into the main room, “did ye see the gift the wee-uns are after getting’ us?”
“Aye, I saw. Well, now we gotta do somethin’ about it. We oughtta give ‘em presents back in revenge.”
“But presents are a good thing,” said Dorrin. “How can you give presents for revenge?”
“Just you wait and see— what is it, mho chri?” said Jaicobh bending down as he felt Soledhan tugging on his leg.
“You need chocolate, Den Utaa,” Soledhan insisted. “You are crying. Have chocolate and you will feel better.”
Jaicobh’s heart could endure no more: the solicitous favour of his grandchildren had done for him, and though he would oppose and say he must help everyone into the house, the children’s pleading eyes convinced him that there was nothing more to do at present than take the warm chocolate being offered him, sit with them at the table, and remark the stone slat they had brought, lying where Calleen had left it face up on the table, standing as a testament to everything that Jaicobh and Calleen had gained in the last few months. Thirty years apart had yielded a devotion unwavering, and their reunion had brought children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and family friends, and he examined the slat, feeling it was the work of the Gods, the depiction betraying an ambition that he had long felt but never conveyed. They were together as a family, he was sitting in Calleen’s house, drinking chocolate with his grandchildren, and his hand grazed the carved stone, tracing the outlines of painted hoses and sanded skies, and he raised his cup to his lips to silence his sorrows, the tears welling in his eyes while he inhaled the mellifluous and soothing scent through his nose.
“Do you feel better, Den Utaa?” was all Soledhan’s concern.
“Aye…” said Jaicobh, his voice fraught with the misery of overpowering delight, “I’m feelin’ better.”