I wouldn’t say my husband or I are “gift” people. That is, we tend to buy each other experiences or, more likely, practical necessities in events that call for gift giving. My favorite gift from my husband was a cheap, paperback atlas in which he placed a note with one simple sentence: “Pick any place.” That place ended up being a small island off the coast of Madagascar. (Because, hey, he did say we could go anywhere…)
But that was a seemingly long time ago. Before kids and college savings accounts. Before grad school and mortgages.
Celebrations have somehow morphed into obligations hanging over our heads and in the days leading up to the dreaded date, we usually will have a conversation like this:
One of us: So (your birthday/our anniversary/____ day) is coming up.
The other of us: Oh yeah. I almost forgot.
One: What do you want?
The other: Uh. I dunno. I don’t really need anything.
One: What about _______ ?
The other: No, (I already got that off Amazon/I don’t really want that.)
One: Okay. Well, what should we do?
The other: Eh. Let’s talk about it later.
This conversation leads us to celebrating on the couch with Five Guys and Netflix after the kids went to bed, which honestly, at least for me, is a pretty great way to celebrate anything.
But sometimes, I feel like it is not enough. Like my lack of grand gestures in recognition of these holidays isn’t…appropriate. As if my indifference is ungrateful. Maybe I am giving too much heed to Hallmark or the seemingly fireworks-and-champagne filled photos of others’ revelry. Maybe. But it still didn’t shake the nagging feeling that I should be doing “more” to commemorate all the special occasions I was lucky enough to have.
And so my fourth wedding anniversary crept up on me/us. And so I started to freak out.
The fourth anniversary, in case you didn’t know, is fruits and flowers. I mean, I guess my husband likes apples and orchids as much as the next guy, but I wouldn’t exactly call him a “fruits and flowers” person. A quick look at Google gave me these romantic suggestions: lining the bed with roses, making my own potpourri, a chocolate-covered strawberry bouquet, and buying flower themed lingerie. (Is flower themed lingerie even a thing? My Hanes and I honestly have no idea.)
This wasn’t helping. So instead of asking myself what my husband might want, I asked myself instead what he didn’t want.
Specifically, the toaster oven that I researched about diligently before adding to our wedding registry where someone so kindly bought it for us. The toaster oven that I actually really like and that he really, really hates. Not because there is anything wrong with it, not because it wasn’t good enough. In fact, it was too good, too fancy. He had complained about it numerous times. “Why can’t we get a regular toaster like normal people?” He said once.
And I, blinded by my pride and the fact that I thought there was no need to buy a new toaster when we had a perfectly fabulous one, ignored these questions.
Now I looked at this toaster and saw something other than bagel pizza. I saw opportunity.
And so our brave not-so-little toaster once again became a gift to celebrate our marriage. A gift to another person.
In one day I donated our lovely wedding gift and bought an $18 toaster from Amazon. Because it meant more for my husband to have more counter space and a “regular toaster like normal people” than for me to hold onto something just for the sake of holding on to something. Because it was the smallest of sacrifices that reminded me that we’re on the same team and we’re in this together. And because there was no way I was buying flower-themed lingerie.
In the two-day shipping time it took for the new toaster to arrive, I did doubt my decision for a moment. I knew it wasn’t exactly romantic, but was this enough to show how grateful I was to spend the last four years creating a life and family with this person? Was this enough?
But I didn’t have to doubt for long. Because when the toaster arrived, it validated my choice instantly:
Like a sign from above. I mean, have you ever seen a more sweeping, romantic gesture? (I had no idea this was how regular people ate their toast.)
And so we celebrated the day of our anniversary in typical fashion. A glass of boxed wine (because we’re fancy like that), the couch, and Netflix. I gave my husband the toaster and he gave me a manual coffee grinder*. And as it happens, appliances are the modern way to celebrate four years of marriage.
So as we go into our fifth year of marriage, it may not be a year of exotic travel and fancy meals or even a lot of sleep. But it can be one of small gestures and little sacrifices and, of course, romantic toast.
(*Okay, so…in complete honesty, I have to admit that there were flowers involved (which he never does) and a surprise fancy dinner the following weekend, which we rarely do. So even though it kind of messes up my point about not needing fancy things…that night out sans kids was pretty awesome**. But in closing: romantic toast and coffee.)
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*****I spelled “ate” wrong and didn’t use the verb “ground” correctly the first go round. Shame!