It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man whose wife has a birthday approaching, is in need of a gift. So it came as no surprise when while sitting with Mr. Smith and savoring my morning cappuccino, he brought up the subject and asked the $64,000 question. “What would you like for your birthday?” Through our nearly 42 years of marriage, I have received many fabulous gifts from Mr. Smith and I am normally willing to provide him with suggestions or ideas. Blame it on the pandemic, blame it on the current administration, but I decided that this year, for my 65th, I wasn’t going to be so amenable. I was going to make him come up with his own idea.
It may sound a bit self-centered, but gifts are significant for me. I love giving and receiving gifts. It warms the cockles of my heart to find a gift I think will delight the receiver. I endeavor to pay attention to anything Mr. Smith might mention throughout the year that he likes or wants. I often write it down or bookmark a website so I can go back and get that item when I need a gift for my beloved. I want him to know he is important to me and that I listen to him. I even love wrapping gifts. Choosing just the right wrapping paper, ribbons, and tie-ons pleases my creative side. I do realize that while I take great pleasure in giving gifts, it may not be so for others.
I decided to conduct a straw poll among some of my favorite peeps to get their takes on gifts from their partners. I asked them how important gifts are to a romantic relationship. If their significant other asked them what they fancied, did that somehow make the gesture less treasured. The results were interesting and diverse. One friend responded that she and her husband don’t really give gifts to each other. She does appreciate that he shows his love and commitment other ways like handling a couple of household chores that she particularly dislikes, but she wouldn’t object if he wanted to surprise her with a weekend away somewhere fabulous as a birthday bonus. One woman responded that her husband refuses to buy gifts for all the customary occasions but delights her every now and then with a lovely gift out of the blue. The results were almost split down the middle on whether they felt that being asked what they wanted diminished the specialness of a gift.
In our family, Christmas was a big time for gifts and for many years the focus of Christmas morning was our children, trying to make sure everyone had enough gifts, but not too many. The joyful, noisy Christmas mornings are some of my favorite family memories. Our sons always started with their stockings and I loved filling them with candy treats and small treasures. When Mr. Smith and I relocated to the east coast, it was clear we would be spending some holidays alone. So in addition to our normal exchange of gifts, I decided to try a new tradition. I bought stockings for the two of us with the hope that we would fill them with treats and treasures for each other. So far this has not been a success, but perhaps in the future. In the meantime, they are handsome holiday decorations.
I believe exchanging gifts, no matter whether small or extravagant, with your spouse is important. When your home is full of kids and chaos, it is important to find moments to focus on each other and remember you were a couple before the family frenzy. And in our current empty nest years when we wake up on Christmas morning and it is just the two of us, I would find it depressing if we didn’t exchange gifts, so we have continued that Christmas morning tradition. With all the changes growing older brings, it is fun to still be able to delight each other with special and unique gifts.
My online dictionary defines gift as: a thing given willingly to someone without payment, a present. Nowhere in the definition does it say that a husband must be a mind reader or that the gift is less heartfelt if the giver has asked the recipient is there is something special they are pining for. Perhaps I’ll come out of my quarantine fatigue long enough to give Mr. Smith a suggestion or two. And on my birthday I’ll smile, say thank you, and coyly ask – how did you know!?!
C’est la vie.