The countdown was finally over.

It was ten.twenty.twelve. and the dreaded box, wrapped neatly in stars and stripes, was presented in front of me – but I didn’t want it.

With it came sadness, laughter, confusion, pinstripe zoot suites, faith wars, never-ending songs, Hallmark cards, and the unexpected outburst.

It managed to bring together a round table discussion that centered around small windows of memories, which allowed for four truths to be told. Truths that were so different that they were somehow the same.

At that moment a blood seed was planted that would either blossom into a beautiful flower or wither like an unwanted weed.

Only time would tell.

By the time ten.twenty-one arrived a revelation had occurred that stirred up a curiosity to find the missing pieces of a mysterious truth as layered as an onion.

But only the spirits may hold the answers.

Though it was your birthday and not mine, the dreaded box had in a way been a gift I didn’t know I needed.

For that I am sincerely grateful.

-Marti Parham