My husband's parents are often on the move. Between the two of them they are actors, directors, writers, artists, teachers. They are using their retirement to do more of what they love, and they go where the best work is. So each year finds them packing and unpacking suitcases in Ireland, Hong Kong, the U.S., and sometimes other countries as well.
Often when they arrive home they come bearing gifts: chocolate and a Belfast newspaper for my husband, a stylish piece of clothing for their granddaughter, something uniquely Irish for me. This time they brought a special gift to me from Belleek.
They had taken a few days at the end of their summer of performances to enjoy a bit of traditional vacation, and they visited the home of Belleek china in County Fermanagh.
What I love most about these two pieces is that they come with a story. Hearing Sam and Joan talk about their tour of the Belleek factory and describing how the china is made and painted gives this gift a special value to me. They told me about the woman who paints the little green flowers on and gets paid by the piece. "I could do it with my eyes closed," she told them.
Presents from a trip abroad are exciting, no doubt about that. But it's the presence of my in-laws after long months away that I look forward to. They come bearing stories, stories as only they can tell them, like that fellow who took them on the boat ride on Lough Erne and spoke so easily about "Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Obama" as though they were shopkeepers from the next town over.
There is nothing that replaces the value of a good story. And my in-laws tell the best ones. Our modern world gives us so many quick ways to exchange information but none of them can hold a candle to a good sit down with a cuppa and a chance to listen--truly listen--and catch up with those we love.