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The Gift

For the next week, whenever she was alone, Alva fretted over what to do about her son. Should she write him a letter? She had seen TV shows about adopted children who get a letter one day from the mother who gave them up. She thought that was a cold way to meet your child. She thought about calling. But that seemed chancy. Suppose his wife answered? Or one of his children? What would she say?

Alva was sure she would stumble and create a problem. Maybe she would have to explain it to someone else first and that would be awkward. One thing was certain, she thought, she had to tell her son first. And then meet his family. What if he rejected her? What if he refused to see her? What about his feelings for the people who adopted him?

These thoughts went round and round in her mind and she often seemed preoccupied. Kitty noticed it. Joellen didn’t see it, but when Alva gave her advice while they were making apple pies together, Alva was half talking to herself about her own situation. When she wasn’t worrying over how to approach her son she was worrying over how he might have suffered over the mystery of his origins. What had they told him? Did he believe it? Would he be disappointed to learn about what happened to Alva so many years ago, about how he was conceived, about the horrible circumstances that began his life? Would it change him? Change the way he treated his wife and children? Would it be better if Alva left him alone with whatever he had been told?

After Thanksgiving, long after Lonnie McSweeney left the cafe, after Joellen and her children went back home, after Kitty found an accountant for Alva, after Marv finished the upstairs bathroom and another snowstorm had begun, Alva sat alone in her apartment thinking about her son Moses and what would be best for him.

One afternoon there came a soft tapping at her door. When she opened it, Marv was standing with Bugs by his side. Bugs liked Alva. She always gave him table scraps. Now his tail wagged furiously and he cocked his head to one side expectantly.

“No, Bugs,” Marv told him. “No food here. We’re just visiting.”

Alva noticed that Marv was holding a small gift-wrapped box.

“You all come on in,” she motioned them inside, leaning over to pat Bugs on the head. His tail beat happily against the door jamb, thump thump thump.

“I wanted to give you something for being so very kind to me and to Bugs here. I wanted to thank you for helping me get back on my feet.” He handed her the box.

Alva took it, surprised by his sudden offering.

“Aw, go on witchoo,” Alva said, smiling. “I didn’t do nothin’. You done it all your own self. Now what this be in here?” She rattled the box a little. “You come in and set.”

They went to her living room which was one of the loveliest rooms in the old house. While she had kept the Berg’s furniture intact, it had seen better days. It was of an old European style, formal, plush, dark, lots of wood trim and wooden legs and velvet upholstery. Old oriental rugs on the floor and dim, crackled paintings on the walls. Alva had added a bit of her own personality, however, and there were plants everywhere, growing in profusion, large, spreading, flowering, climbing, as if the inside of the apartment wanted to be an outdoor garden. Generous light came from the windows almost as high as the enormously tall ceilings, which gave the room an air of grandeur coupled with a formality from an era long gone.

Alva unwrapped the gift, saying it should really go under the tree, that Christmas was not that far off now and all presents should wait. But she was obviously happy the way a child would be at the thought of getting a look at one of the presents ahead of Christmas. She lifted the gift out of the box. It was a small silver clock, with delicate carved flowers around its face and little vines for feet.

“Oh my,” she said. “This is the most beautiful thing I ever did see in my born days. Thank you, Marv. You a good soul, truly.” Marv grinned at the success of his gift.

Alva Part 2, Episode Nineteen

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