A Cautionary Tale
You'd have to be blind not to notice it was the largest present under the tree. He had wrapped it as best he could, but still the bright paper and gaudy bow made it stand out like a flashy hotel on the Vegas Strip compared to the other gifts.
She couldn't help but wonder what it could be -- wonder or dread, she wasn't sure which was the more accurate feeling. He hadn't been much of a gift giver in the past, at least not the recent past.
For a second, she fondly remembered the precious gifts of jewelry he'd given her in the early years of their marriage. Nothing extravagant (they couldn't afford it), yet the sapphire earrings and matching bracelet had been thoughtfully selected, delicate and tasteful, wrapped in small pretty packages. She also recalled the silver and gold bracelet (a custom creation by one of her favorite artists that she wore almost daily) he'd surprised her with one Valentine's Day after seeing her covet it in the shop window at Christmas.
It had been years since he'd given her anything like that.
This was clearly not jewelry, judging by the size of the box. She pictured small kitchen appliances that might fit the bill. Maybe it was a toaster oven, a slow-cooker, or an ice cream maker. In any case, ick, ick and ick.
She worried he spent too much money. Maybe after so much time away from gift shopping and giving he was now trying to redeem himself by overcompensating. Hmmm... If it was a big-ticket item, she wondered what kind of dent this might put in their vacation budget for the year.
Worse yet, it was probably something he thought she'd love but didn't have the slightest need or desire for. Proof of how little he knew her now, or cared to.
She sighed, thinking this was the year their marriage might finally reach the last straw. Maybe she should just go ahead and file for divorce -- get it over with and get on with her life before she was stuck for good in what (judging by the mounting evidence) seemed a passionless, lifeless relationship.
He watched her, eyeing his gift, with childlike anticipation. He couldn't wait for her to open it, to see he was finally giving her what he'd so often held back but knew she always wanted.
A few months ago, after yet another long-haul business trip to Asia, he realized how withdrawn they'd both become from each other. His frequent travel was usually manageable, but the cumulative effect of so many years of it was now unmistakably taking its toll on not only her, but him.
He was tired of feeling disconnected from -- well, practically everything except his job -- coming and going and popping in and out of what was supposed to be his life so often that there was now almost zero continuity to his relationships with family and friends. He could see that every time he left, his wife and two boys seemed to get by better and better without him. The boys were big enough to really help around the house now, even mowing the lawn and washing the cars once a week.
So right after Thanksgiving, rather than scouring the Black Friday sales for some luxury handbag she might like or getting her the usual spa gift card he robotically produced every year, he began preparing his new Christmas gift for his wife. He'd made his decision. This year, he would give her his whole heart, all his love, without holding back.
He gathered his love into a bright, shiny nebula of brilliance. He added a significant and steady amount of companionship in the form of long walks on the beach, a vacation without the kids, and weekly dinner dates alone. He blended a healthy dose of passion, sex and romance into the mix and finally completed his creation with gratitude, appreciation and respect -- all the long-held feelings of his now-open heart that he'd been meaning to share but found it so difficult to express. When he was done, his creation was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen -- so beautiful he almost hated to have to box and wrap it.
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