'Tis Better to Receive than to Give

My son turned three years old one week ago today. All of the things people say are true, that time will pass quickly, he’ll be in high school before you know it, etc. I have no idea where the last three years have gone. I pick up his 30-pound frame now and wonder instantly where that eight pound baby boy went that would lay in my arms all day long.
He has the misfortune, though he doesn’t realize it yet, that his birthday falls two days before Christmas. For now he just knows there’s about two straight weeks of receiving presents between his party with friends from his school to celebrating his birthday and Christmas at home, and the random arrivals of boxes in the mail from aunts, uncles and cousins around the country. When he’s older I am sure we will be chastised by him for our poor planning of allowing his two big gift giving holidays to be back-to-back.
He is a gracious toddler, full of hugs for presents from us or always pointing out which family member a toy or book came from. And of course talking about Santa Claus and his favorite gift that came from the jolly old man, a toy lawn mower.
We were leaving the house to go… somewhere… who knows where as it isn’t the point of the story, but we are walking outside to the car and he decisively walks onto the lawn, which is still holding onto some green thanks to recent rain. A few leaves remain that fell after the final run with the mulching mower, and he picked up a pair of leaves and went over and gave one to his Mommy and gave one to me. This wasn’t the first gift of leaves we’ve received (or torn pieces of paper with a crayon mark on them or something similar). But since we were loading up in the car I placed it on the seat beside me. A few days later it is still there and keeps pulling my attention towards it as I drive, until I realize something.
Perhaps this was not a random gifting of what most (including me) would consider an eyesore on the ground, waiting to be taken back into the earth. It was HIS gifts to US. It was his way of giving something back to the two people who give their whole lives for and to him. It isn’t like he has any money and can run to the mall or click around on Amazon to find Mommy some perfume and a necktie for me.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it. But on that first drive with our newly gifted dried-out foliage, he asked each of us several times if we still had our leaves. I still have the leaf, and I don’t know when I’ll let it go. When I do, I don’t think I’ll simply drop it back onto the lawn or gather it up with other in-car detritus to head to the trash can. I think I’ll wait until I’m driving down the road and will open my window and let the leaf fly on the breeze one last time to find a new home to continue its disintegration.
But, no matter where it ends up, it will be my favorite gift I received this Christmas season.
Or maybe it was just a leaf.