|The Gift of the Tattered Rags
By Sharon Holtz
It was the 12th of January, Vincent's Birthday,
and Catherine was expecting him any moment now.
And so as Catherine waited, she anxiously looked about her apartment,
wanting to make sure everything was ready for this special occasion.
Taking stock, she noted...
the candles were all lit...
Vincent's gift was wrapped, and topped with a satin bow,
the tea was steeping,
and lastly, Vincent's favorite composition was playing on the stereo.
Deciding everything was just perfect,
Catherine then pondered,
"Now, if only Vincent will enter my apartment tonight,
then everything will be perfect!"
And if he did, then it really would be perfect
because Catherine desired this bit of normalcy in their relationship so badly.
Was it so wrong of her, to at least want this one, small, ordinary thing?
All she wanted was for Vincent to feel comfortable enough with their differences,
that he would cross her threshold...
Catherine knew it was Vincent's decision to make,
and she didn't want to drive the issue,
but she could not deny her most desirous wish,
was growing stronger,
while her ability to mask her disappointment,
was steadily weakening.
So tonight...on Vincent's Birthday, Catherine would do her best,
to convince him to come in from the cold.
Just then, she heard Vincent tap on the icy window pane.
As Catherine opened the door, she stopped for a moment,
before she went out, to join him at his side.
As they stood together at the snow covered balcony,
Catherine looked up at him, and with a smile, sweetly said,
"Happy Birthday Vincent. I hope you have had a good day so far..."
Contentedly, he let go of a sigh as he looked toward her, and said,
Embracing his arm, she happily replied,
"I am so glad, and I feel especially honored,
you are spending the last part of your Birthday with me."
Catherine then took in a shivering breath, as she noted,
"It is so very cold out tonight."
Looking out over the city, Vincent agreed, when the notion struck him,
that Catherine, herself was cold.
And so he slipped off his cloak,
and as he draped it over her shoulders, he said,
As Catherine thanked Vincent for his chivalrous deed,
she then hesitantly mentioned,
"I was thinking, maybe tonight...we could go inside...I prepared some tea..."
As they looked into each other's eyes,
Vincent could see the hopefulness in hers,
and he knew his reserve concerning this matter,
had been a disappointment to her.
And so as Vincent glanced toward the apartment,
he could see the room was illuminated by many twinkling candles,
and he realized Catherine had prepared her dwelling, especially for his visit.
And so, after examining his feelings,
Vincent realized he no longer hosted the reluctance,
which held him back before, and so tonight, he would say yes.
As Vincent looked back at Catherine, he nonchalantly, asked,
"Is that Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel I hear playing?"
In reply, with hope, Catherine answered, "Yes, as a matter of fact, it is."
To which Vincent in response, surprised Catherine, by saying,
"Perhaps if we go inside, we could hear and enjoy the music better. Shall we?"
In an effort to stifle her joyful exuberance, Catherine nodded,
and then she let Vincent guide her inside.
Upon crossing the threshold, Vincent stopped for a moment as he took in the ambiance.
And as he looked around at the many tapered and companion votive candles flickering,
with astonishment he softly remarked, "The candles...so lovely..."
To which, in a thoughtful tone Catherine replied,
"I have lit a candle, for each year of your life Vincent."
Touched by this meaningful notion Catherine had done for him, Vincent responded,
"Thank you for this symbolic gesture."
Graciously Catherine looked back at him,
as she warmly said, "You are welcome."
And then Vincent tipped his head, as he listened to the music for a moment,
and with astonishment, he noted, "It is the cello arrangement..."
In reply, Catherine smiled and said, "You noticed..."
To which Vincent humbly answered, "And you remembered..."
With a nod, Catherine proudly admitted,
"Of course I do. I remember you had mentioned
that you preferred the cello over the violin arrangement,
because you thought the cello offered so much more heart, soul and timbre to the piece."
And because Catherine remembered this observance he had made some time ago,
Vincent felt very touched by her thoughtfulness.
And so as Vincent held her gaze,
he brought his hand to his heart, and said, "There are no words..."
And there were no words for Catherine either,
who felt so elated she was able to please Vincent in this way,
by having one of his favorite melodies playing just for him.
And then as Catherine cleared the emotion from her voice,
she suggested, "Shall we sit down?"
And so they settled in, and as Catherine poured their tea,
she discreetly glanced up at Vincent, and she thought, of how perfect,
he looked sitting there.
Yes, Catherine had imagined Vincent visiting like this,
a million times over, inside her home, on her turf,
where there wouldn't be any of Jacob's influences, boundaries, or barriers.
And now, because it was tonight that Vincent had finally consented to enter her home...
Catherine thought the timing, was just so typical of Vincent's generous heart,
for him to choose his own birthday to give this gift to her.
And so as Catherine handed Vincent his tea cup,
and after taking a sip from her own, she requested,
"Tell me how you celebrated your Birthday today."
To which, Vincent warmly relayed,
"It was a time...William prepared a cake for me, so delicious with rich confection,
and after everyone was served, it was then I opened my gifts."
To which Catherine anxiously asked, "What sort of gifts did everyone give you?"
Thoughtfully, Vincent recalled, "Well, Mary had sewn a down filled quilt for my bed,
Rebecca, gifted me with an exquisite candle she had poured,
and the children performed a concert in my honor."
Smiling at the sweetness of the children,
and knowing how they loved Vincent so,
caused Catherine to envision this joyful moment for him, and replied, "How nice."
To which Vincent with a nod agreed, and then added,
"And the children each presented me with a handmade gift as well."
Upon hearing they made gifts with their own little hands,
caused Catherine to ask, "Handmade gifts? What did they make for you?"
With an affectionate tone, Vincent answered,
"Well, several of the children made baked clay pen holders,
of which I might mention,
I now have one in every color of the rainbow...
and also due to the beehive kiln a helper gave to us this year,
I now own a gaggle of glazed ceramic mugs,
in interesting shapes, varying sizes and colors."
Catherine giggled a bit at Vincent's delivery,
and then noted, "One cannot have too many pen holders or oddly shaped mugs."
To which Vincent amusedly corrected Catherine by saying,
“Now Catherine, I don’t recall saying the mugs were oddly shaped.”
With an apologetic tone, Catherine replied, “Awe, that’s true, you didn’t…I suppose in my mind's eye,
I was imagining their little hands, forming the mugs in all these odd shapes.
But I didn't say it to sound rude or anything, in fact the image was endearing to me...
forgive me for saying and assuming so.”
As Vincent listened, he tried to hold back his smile as he said,
“In truth, Dear Catherine no forgiveness is necessary.
A couple of the mugs were designed in a rather odd fashion.”
They then shared an amused look, as Catherine lovingly said,
"Oh Vincent, no matter what the gifts were or looked like,
I know you loved everything the children made for you."
To which Vincent with a nod, said, "Indeed..."
And then Vincent continued to recall…
"And, due to the wood shop, Kanin conducts,
I received a couple of oak candle pedestals,
and I dare not forget the wooden security box Kipper had constructed,
intended for my most important top secret papers."
Happy to hear that Vincent's tunnel family had spoiled him on his Birthday,
Catherine listened as he then thoughtfully added,
"There were other gifts too,
Pascal fabricated a small wrought iron gavel for me to message with,
and Mouse...well Mouse, made a motion wave machine for me."
With a suspicious tone, Vincent humorously, shared,
"Of course the source of his supplies is a mystery."
But then with a smile in his eyes, Vincent tipped his head in wonder,
as he thoughtfully added, "Catherine, even though Mouse is simple in so many ways,
he never ceases to amaze me with the things he is able to construct."
And because of Vincent's beguiling manner,
Catherine couldn't help but smile.
Yes, whenever Vincent tipped his head to ponder,
in that sweet, boyish style he sometimes owns...
Vincent manages to steal Catherine's heart anew, each and every time.
And so because Catherine seemed amused, Vincent noted, "You are smiling..."
To which Catherine lovingly admitted,
"I guess it is just because I love listening to your stories,
and being with you makes me happy.
You make me so happy Vincent..."
And even though Vincent asked, and received Catherine's answer,
in truth, he already knew the reason, because through their bond,
he knew the light in her heart
this night, mirrored his own.
Yes, tonight they were having a wonderful time together,
and Catherine loved seeing the smile in his eyes,
and though there was that...there was something new,
something different about the look in his eyes,
And Catherine could not deny she strongly felt this change
of how Vincent seemed much more at ease
as if he had a new-found justification concerning this unique fate that was his to bear,
a validation...that wasn't there before.
Sensing that Vincent no longer seemed to be,
apologetic about whom he was.
And because Catherine loved seeing this change in him,
she decided to mention this difference she noticed.
So, as Catherine sat thoughtful for a moment,
wondering how to put her feelings into words,
her prolonged, private pondering,
prompted Vincent to ask, "Catherine?"
Upon hearing Vincent calling her up from her thoughts,
Catherine self consciously smiled, as she carefully told him,
"I was just trying to find a way, to say...well, to say,
I sense a calm manner about you, which I never felt before.
The best way I can explain it,
is, well you seem to have found, an inner peace."
Upon taking in what Catherine had said,
Vincent looked back at her, and sincerely asked,
To which Catherine in reply, simply nodded, as she waited to hear
what Vincent had to say.
And so because Catherine's perception, was correct, Vincent offered,
"I have found a peace of sorts, and I can tell you,
it is because of Father's gift to me."
Catherine had noticed earlier,
when Vincent spoke about the gifts he had received
he had failed to mention his Father's gift,
and she wondered why.
And so politely, Catherine asked,
"If I may, what did your Father give you?"
In preparation for his answer, Vincent cautioned,
"It is not so much what the gift was,
what it represents.
Catherine, the gift my Father has given me
has changed my heart and the rest of my life forever."
Raising his brow, Vincent then offered,
"I brought it with me, would you like to see?"
Excitedly, Catherine replied,
"Yes, I would love to see this gift
that holds the power to change your life."
Vincent 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 Father's gift to me."
And because Catherine was confused,
of how these strips of material, could be construed as a gift,
she knitted her brow, as she said,
"I don't understand."
Vincent knew of course, upon the mere presentation
of what he held in his hand,
that Catherine would have no way of understanding the significance,
and so because of this, Vincent suggested,
"Perhaps I should start at the beginning."
And so thoughtfully, Vincent explained,
"This morning, in the early hours, I could not sleep,
I kept thinking about my birth mother.
So, I went to Father's chamber to speak with him.
I asked him what kind of a woman, must my mother have been,
that she had discarded me so heartlessly?
Father then turned thoughtful,
and without a word, he walked over to his chest full of keepsakes,
and carefully brought out this bundle of rags,
from a musty old pine box.
And he said, until that moment, he wasn't sure why he saved them.
However, because of the state I was in,
he hoped they might mean something to me now.
And so as Father held the bundle of rags,
he told me this was what I was wrapped in, when Anna found me.
When I examined the worn strips of material, I degraded them,
causing Father to scold me,
declaring, these rags,
were as valuable to him, as any pot of gold."
Vincent thoughtfully continued,
"The significance of these rags still eluded me,
and so I asked my Father, why he wanted me to have my shroud.
When shockingly, he corrected me saying,
these rags were not meant to be a shroud,
but rather, a cradle.
Father then told me,
if it had not been for this meager, bundle of rags,
which protected me from the chilling winds, that cold night,
I would have surely died."
Vincent then incredulously added,
"Catherine, these rags are my inheritance, the only thing I truly own."
Upon hearing Vincent's account of his lineage,
Catherine gasped, as she now looked at this material through different eyes.
Carefully, almost reverently, she reached over to touch this precious keepsake,
that had protected baby Vincent from the cold.
Realizing if not for this raggedy little bundle,
he would not have survived,
and because they are a part of each other,
then a piece of her would have died that night too.
As Catherine looked up at Vincent...the tears in her eyes,
said all she could not say.
And then Vincent continued,
"And so now I do know that my birth mother cared enough to wrap something around me,
she did care whether I lived or died.
And because of Father's gift to me,
I now know, I was of some worth to her."
Catherine cried a little bit, as she said,
"I see, though it doesn't look like much to us,
perhaps it was all your mother owned or had.
And so...now you know she did love you as much as she could."
In a soft husky whisper, Vincent said yes, and then speculated,
"I wonder though, if anyone but me,
can truly understand the power, of such an unlikely gift,
of these tattered rags, my Father handed over to me..."
Catherine smiled as she wiped her tears away, and argued,
"I do. I understand.
After all, you are sitting inside with me tonight aren't you?
This is something I have wanted...for such a very long time."
And because what Catherine had said, was so,
Vincent knew, if anyone would understand...that yes...because of their bond...Catherine would.
And so with a contemplative blinking of his eyes, Vincent simply said,
And so, as Vincent brought Catherine home, closer within his embrace,
he leaned his head on hers,
closed his eyes, and said,
"It has been a day...and now being here with you...my Birthday truly is complete..."
Sweetly, Catherine snuggled into his arms,
contentedly knowing, because of their connection...and their bond,
she had moved back Vincent's aloneness for him,
as he had done for her.
And so as Catherine looked over at this sleepy, birthday boy,
who was so exquisitely, brilliant to her,
she softly whispered,
"Happy Birthday Vincent."
Vincent's Happy Birthday Page Index