I read a piece in The New York Times regarding gifts. I was happy to note that there are other married people, who do not exchange gifts at the direction of Madison Avenue and Hallmark. I have never cared for the pressure of calendar holidays.
When I turned 6 my mother took me out for a big girl’s department store lunch where I bought the most beautiful, sky blue, patent leather purse. It was a glamorous accessory, my very first grown-up gift, made magically special because I was alone with my mother, just the two of us.
On my 21st birthday, I lived in New Orleans far from my family in the liberal northeast. All of my friends were from somewhere else and I was the youngest person in the bunch. My older friend Kurt, who had a girlfriend of his own, insisted that a 21st birthday was indeed a momentous occasion to be celebrated. It was a special day and I still smile at the memory of a happy time spent with friends and the wonderful surprise of goldfish in a bowl.
My husband, who could not keep a present a secret if you put a gun to his head, got me a gorgeous strand of pearls and roses on my birthday one year. He sent the roses to me at work, there were so many that my desk was covered. A co-worker, who was interested in the proportion of the gift, insisted on counting the roses. I don’t remember how many there were, but there were dozens of all colors. The president of the company, a crusty, older gentleman whom I admired, came to investigate and teased, “It’s like a funeral parlor in here.” At that time, my husband was an offshore commercial fisherman, gone for days and weeks on end. He made grand gestures because he wanted to be present in some way when he was physically absent.
We see each other every day now. Our celebration is continuous. Sometimes it’s a pint of Hagen Daz ice cream; often it’s a phone call. It’s clean laundry and a shoveled walk, it’s the kiss at the door as the work day begins. Gifts and celebrations don’t come from the calendar, they come from the heart.