“Surprise!” is what I used to say, years ago, early on in our twenty-eight year relationship. Back when we hadn’t really yet learned each other’s tastes (or better, tolerances). Fifteen years ago I’d stand there, his gift balanced by my sweaty hands, my nerves knotted and twisted like the Strangler Fig tree, praying for his hullabaloo upon opening the gift, followed by a tight embrace, further followed by his quick kisses like a woodpecker atop some pine. A decade ago I’d pluck the gift from beneath the tree with little ceremony, hand it to him, then sit back and watch as he tested-then-tore layer by layer of packaging, similar to a child tasting her way through a box of chocolates. The past few years like a couple of archaeologists, the dig was more fun than the discovery! At last he found the gift and I waited for the inconclusive and rudimentary sentiment followed by a brief embrace and a kiss as light as a hummingbird. Three years ago I’d started to hear “How’d you know I wanted this?” his amazement falling to the side of curiosity rather than tickling admiration, and my answer, diluted through the years like cheap gin, “I thought you could use this,” at which he cocked his head like our dog’s misunderstanding, and then I presented the real gift, “There’s a gift receipt taped to the lid should you choose to exchange it for a color more to your liking than orange.” I’ve learned over the course of twenty-eight years that we buy lovers/partners/spouses clothing we’d like to see them wear, and definitely not the clothing they like to wear. So after two decades of my repeated attempts to upgrade his personal style year after year by giving him exquisite gifts (which he surreptitiously found ghastly) I learned that a gift receipt, like the “get out of jail card,” nullifies my responsibility for his disinterest in modern style, and ensures that he can exchange the atrocious article for an object of his liking.
But this Christmas his gift to me was different than the previous twenty-seven. Very, very different. Absent was the gift receipt. He handed me the gift without fanfare, explanation, or apology. He simply said, “Merry Christmas.”
Hidden beneath wrapping paper we’ve had for twenty years was a book. But not some book he’d like to read. No, this was a book I’d already read and reread; I had a greater degree of familiarity with the final pages, but the earlier pages popped once more like bubble gum. The book he gave me was “Becoming not Became: The First 100 Posts,” by T.M. Mulligan.
I was dumbfounded then speechless then crying. I was flabbergasted to hold Mr. Mulligan’s first 100 posts printed on heavy, magazine-grade paper and hardbound. It’s rare indeed, to hold yourself up to yourself, to be reflected, to permit yourself to be tickled, concerned, angry, interested, and entertained. I suppose narcissism might come to mind; but if you’re beautiful or handsome why not enjoy a modicum of self-appreciation. Or, like me, those 100 posts represented dear friends, young and old, whom I haven’t visited, but whom all came together under the same roof for me. I shall take my time reading these posts and thoroughly enjoy each one’s company greater than before.
Thank you so much, Nick.
- What to do with Unwanted Christmas Presents by Simon (fromadaughter.com)
- Merry Christmas! (boston.cbslocal.com)
- A Favorite Christmas Gift… (feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com)