“All I know: Sometimes you love it and you hate it, but what good’s love if it ain’t a little complicated?”
– Kip Moore
My husband is terrible at gift giving. You heard me. I said it (or, rather – typed it). Gift giving. Not his thing. Sometimes he doesn’t remember the date. Sometimes he runs out of time. Sometimes he has no idea what to get. We’re not all gift givers. It really is a bit of a skill. I mean, think about it. To give a truly memorable gift one must harness the perfect storm of casual conversation, context clues and memory retention, combined with just the right avenue of creative execution. That’s a lot of things going on. For a person who’s so inclined, it’s a natural, comfortable process that said gift giver finds quite enjoyable, but for the rest? It’s an intimidating nightmare.
“What’s Doug getting you for Valentine’s Day?” That was the most common question I fielded this past week. My response? “Probably nothing.” “But, *gasp*” exclaims my inquisitor, “It’s Valentine’s Day! He’s your husband!” My countenance mellows and I shrug. “Gift giving,” I respond, “It’s not his thing.” So, what exactly is?
Here’s the thing…I’ve been in a relationship with Doug since October of 2006. That’s almost nine and a half years. And, guess what? I still don’t have him all figured out. There’ve been Christmases and birthdays and Valentine’s Days and dating anniversaries where he’s pulled out all the stops with flowers and wine and jewelry and love notes, and others where there’s goose eggs. Nothing. He’s inconsistent and sporadic – virtually pattern-less. I literally never know what to expect. I remember my 22nd birthday back home crying out in front of the Roundup Bar and Grill during a street dance because ONCE AGAIN Doug had “forgotten” to get me a present. I berated him through dramatic sobs and animated hand gestures while he apologized repetitively, assuring me of his continued affections in his best attempt to calm me down (and divert the stares from the locals whose good timin’ vibes I was harshing, no doubt). All the same, I can just as vividly remember tearing up while flipping through the content of a red folder that Doug had given me with logs of cell phone minutes we had racked up calling each other and a list of the “most used words” he had pulled from all of our text message conversations and copies of emails we had sent back and forth to each other from when we had done the first nine month leg of our long distance relationship, ending with a hand written love note that both destroyed my eye liner and made me grin from ear to ear at the same time. You see what I mean? One day he’s the worst, and the next the sweetest, most thoughtful chap of all time. He’s a kamikaze.
Friday afternoon I told him that I was going over to a friend’s after work the next night to make his Valentine because I wanted it to be a surprise until Sunday morning and he said, – up front – “You’re making me something? I didn’t get you anything!” Internally, I rolled my eyes. Externally, I replied with a smile and, “That’s okay, I just wanted to make you a little something.” I was baking him a giant, heart-shaped cookie (literally, the size of an entire cookie sheet) that I had planned to strategically leave next to a gag worthy, sap laden, tastefully mushy note on the kitchen counter, hoping it’s discovery would start his day with a smile and some warm fuzzies to tide him over until I got home from work that evening. I had a conversation earlier with a friend who had asked what I was getting Doug for Valentine’s Day and I joked that since he probably didn’t get me anything I should just give him “one more day of my love and affection.” Cop out gift, right?
Fast-forward to last night when I finally make it home from work, which – quick back-story – was pretty far from a stellar day. The restaurant I work at does a brunch every Sunday morning, which is usually a pretty big deal. Well, guess how much bigger of a deal it is on Valentine’s Day? To squash the suspense – a lot. At one point we were on an hour wait for five hours. As soon as one table would leave, another couple would sit down. Serve, turn and repeat. No breaks. No down time. Constant movement. Grab ice. Stock plates. Run drinks. Run food. More ranch. Where’s my beer? Check please! The tips were below average, two tables (who maintained a professional poker face of contentment pre and post meal) stiffed me, and at one point I spilled an entire tray full of orange juices and chocolate milks onto an old man (who ended up being way to kind and understanding of the mishap). I – in an embarrassed, adrenaline induced frenzy – grabbed a towel and started squeezing the fabric on the sleeve of his sweater in an apology laden, desperate attempt to soak up my accidental “breakfast shower.” He assured me that he was “just fine” and his sweater would dry and that I needn’t worry and eventually I quit acting like a skiddish mare, but man – let me tell ya – brunch was slightly trying. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes – last night!
I’m exhausted and gross smelling and the left leg of my pants is caked with pulp and milk from the above trauma and I open the door and there’s Doug with a smile on his face. Not just like a regular, run of the mill smile. A smile that makes the corners of his eyes crinkle and his whole face light up. And before I can even take my shoes off he wraps me in this big bear hug and says, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Cue all the feelings. He had cleaned up the kitchen and hand washed all of the dishes and said that he had gotten groceries and wanted to know if we could make dinner together. And as I stood there at the kitchen island cleaning Brussels sprouts while Doug told me about his day as he butterflied a chicken breast it hit me. Doug had gifted my sarcastic jab. He had given me one more day of his love and affection. And – in that moment – the thought was actually quite beautiful.
It wasn’t a cop out gift. It was a legitimate gesture. That weekend my schedule was the complete opposite of what it usually is. I was working late hours on shifts that I had picked up, our heat pump had busted, Doug had been up late correcting things that had gone awry at his work, we hadn’t been able to eat dinner together, or workout together – we were on complete separate schedules. And in that moment, there we were. Making chicken cordon bleu. Together. Doug, while not getting me a physical gift, had actually executed the perfect one. And, that – I think – is his “thing.” Doing the right thing at the right time. Nine and a half years ago, he gave me school girl butterflies when he asked me to dinner and a movie and last night they were back, fluttering around again. Who needs roses and ribbon when you’ve got a guy who can – with one simple gesture – remind you why you fell in love with him in the first place? So, while his gift giving game may not be as strong as other husbands’ out there, he does have a way of planning just the right something on just the right day to make my sarcastic heart melt. I think I’ll keep him around.