You've probably seen them: the panic-stricken faces on men on the eve of some holiday. They're in line behind you at the florist, or the jewelry store, or even the convenience store. They know they're expected to come through, yet again -- and with what?
What could possibly be the point?
Sure, I'm your typical parent when it comes to our daughter. I probably can't justify some of that bounty, but I can no more imagine dispensing with her presents than she could.
Then there's Darrell and me.
Here are a few reasons we skip most gift-giving rituals...
1. My idea of a good time is seeing how little I can get by with. If I have to iron it or dust it or move it to get to something else, forget it. Clutter isn't soothing. If we had a fire, I could fit almost everything it would hurt me to lose into a few pockets -- and I'm not kidding.
2. Darrell's idea of a good time is seeing how little we can buy. He makes purchases by comparing the cost per ounce, and I can't remember the last time he thought something was a really good deal.
3. We value our time too much to spend it guessing what would not only delight the other person but pass the no clutter/good deal test.
4. We treasure experiences. If I surprise Darrell with the suggestion to go on a walk -- with a soak in a hot tub as our destination, for example -- he'll thank me for days. If he surprises Katie and me with a weekend in the city, we'll thank him for weeks -- inspiring more suggestions like that.
5. We go for quality. Not buying what we don't need helps make that possible. And sure, the man who sold us our Honda Accord looked crestfallen when we paid with cash -- but we doubted it was because he ran out of customers needing to finance their vehicles.
6. A friend who was getting divorced told me she wants a man who looks at her the way Darrell looks at me. And I'm supposed to want flowers on top of that?
7. The same friend had Darrell come over to her new house -- the one she lived in after her divorce -- to hang towel rods and hook up her stereo. Not so much because she couldn't find anyone else to do it, but because she knew this was his idea of a good time. He was caught up on things around our house, so he started in on someone else's. And I'm supposed to want flowers on top of being married to someone who likes fixing things?
8. After Katie was born and during those blissful couple of days while we were in the hospital -- before that "What have I done?" feeling set in -- Darrell brought me a microcassette recorder, because it would be a few years before people stored memories in their iPhones. He knew I'd want to save this most precious part of our lives, and thanks to him I can remember almost every detail of it. Nothing could top that thoughtfulness. Why try?
9. Once in a while, we'll spot something the other person would love, and get it. Not because the calendar said now is the time, but because it passed the no clutter/good deal test. Darrell's still working through the primo Sudoku book I got him in anticipation of last summer's vacation. It isn't clutter, which tickles me, and the price per hour of entertainment has been pennies, which tickles him. I smile every time I see my keychain from Vail, which reminds us both of our best Christmas ever.
10. You might think that based on what I've written here, we've never hit a snag. And you'd be wrong. But Darrell takes the "or worse" part of the "for better or worse" vow seriously, and so do I. Could either of us have found someone more perfect? Possibly. Do we think about it even as long as it took me to type that sentence? Not in a million.
That's my bouquet of roses, every day.
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