On Christmas, I got the best present ever.

I’ve had other best presents ever, including a shoebox crammed full of wonderful paperback books when I was a preteen, sweaters, afghans, wall art and other beautiful handcrafted items, and other gifts that weren’t handmade but were incredibly thoughtful.

As we all know, this is Christmas #2 of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Sigh. And while there are many things to be grateful for, it’s also maddening and exhausting, and we’re SO ready to be out the other end of this ongoing nightmare we’re all stuck in.

Despite this, I still somehow got one of the best presents ever.

Anyone who’s read my blog knows that I wrote a book last year. It’s based on an old autograph album that we found in family records after my grandmother died in 2013. I’ve always been interested in family history.

But learning about the people who signed great-times-three Aunt Mary’s autograph album went WAY beyond interest and became a massive obsession that led to multiple road trips, hours and hours of research and years of writing. I used Amazon’s self-publishing service, KDP to publish my book last year (called This, Their Friendship’s Monument, soon to be re-published as Coal Country Connections).

Aunt Mary’s album was one of the items in the family collection. After my mother became the keeper of the records she, my sister and I digitized all of the photos and records, including the pages of Mary’s album. It took us weeks. As we scanned each item we returned it to the box or bin that it arrived in at my mother’s house from my grandmother’s. They are the complete set of family records and as such, belong together.

When I was at my parents’ house yesterday for a short, masked visit, my mother said she had something for me. She walked out of the room and came back with something in her hand. She had a little smile on her face. I was intrigued.

I looked at what she was holding and saw that it was Aunt Mary’s album.

“I want you to have it,” Mom said.

I was stunned. I asked her if she was lending it to me but she said no, she wants me to have it—she knows how much it means to me.

As I took it from her and held it in my hands, I thought about how its pages had become a passport to the lives of the signers of the album, and how much pleasure the journey of learning about them had been for me.

I worried about its place in the family records. But my mother is now the conservator of the family records, and her offering of it made it OK.

Mom, the one who’s given me all those other perfect presents. And who had given me yet another incredibly meaningful one.

Thank you, Mom.