This is the story I remember each year when we're doing our Christmas shopping....
Whenever I shop for gifts, I feel a mild stress in my gut because I have no confidence that I can choose something someone else will love. The reason for this is that I'm not at all observant; I miss out on all those little clues to the perfect gift. I wasn't even aware of my disability in this area until I met Bill, the perfect gift giver. He's so good, he knows even better than I do what I will need or enjoy.
For example, when I opened my birthday present a couple years ago, I was a little mystified to find a giant black binder with dividers and a stack of sticky photo sheets with cellophane covers. Didn't he realize that, with all my scrapbooking knowledge, I could never use a photo album if it wasn't archival quality?
"It's for your recipes," he explained.
"Ah," I said, still unconvinced. But that turned out to be one of my most useful gifts ever; I use it almost every day. With the dividers to separate the various categories, I can find any recipe with minimal effort. Better still, our bottom drawer is no longer bursting with random sheets and index cards.
Over the years, Bill's given me so many perfect gifts, most romantic in an offbeat way because each gift shows me that he's been studying me, and he knows me very, very well.
No, You Didn't
But there was one Christmas when it seemed his perfect gift had crashed and burned. It was our first Christmas as a married couple, back in 2003. We were chatting at work one afternoon a few weeks before Christmas, and somehow the topic of leather clothing came up. (I can't imagine why we were talking about leather at work, but I'm sure it must have seemed logical at the time.)
"I really don't like leather coats," I announced unequivocally. Immediately, Bill's face contorted with some emotion I couldn't discern, but it didn't look good. Why would he be offended by my dislike of leather coats? I searched my memory; maybe he had a leather coat himself? (He did.) Maybe he thought I was being narrow minded and judgmental of all people who wore leather?
I hastened to add, "I don't mind leather on other people, I suppose. It's just that it's really not my style." Now his face was turning red, and his mouth was twitching in that way that means he's struggling to control his annoyance. What on earth was bothering him?
"I guess some kinds of leather are okay," I said in a conciliatory tone. "Oh, yes. I actually have a leather coat, don't I? You know, the brown suede one that I only wear when I go to Chicago. That's a good coat, so warm.... So I guess I just don't like the shiny kind of leather. What's that called? You know, the black, shiny kind."
"So you're saying you don't like black, shiny leather coats?" Bill gave me a dark look.
I laughed nervously. "Well, I guess it just reminds me of girls in tight miniskirts, hanging all over a rock star," I explained apologetically. "Sort of trampy, I guess."
"What if I told you I bought you a leather jacket for Christmas?" he asked.
"No you didn't," I laughed heartily. How ridiculous would that be? It wasn't even Thanksgiving, so why would he have bought my gift already?
"Maybe I did."
"No you didn't!" I repeated. I laughed even harder, tears clinging to my lashes.
"Okay, I didn't," Bill said with a shrug.
I returned to my desk, shaking my head and marveling at what a kidder Bill was. By the second phone call, I'd forgotten the entire conversation.
Oh, You Did!
It all came rushing back on Christmas morning, though. Sitting cross-legged in front of the tree, I ripped the paper off a neatly wrapped box and excitedly lifted the lid. There, nestled in tissue paper, was a leather jacket--a black, shiny, form-fitting leather jacket!
My mouth dropped open, and my face flushed up to the roots of my hair. It must have been most amusing for Bill, or at least it would have been had he not spent too much hard-earned money on that coat.
I held the jacket up with trembling hands. "It's very nice," I said lamely.
"Don't even bother," Bill said dryly. "You don't have to pretend you like it. As soon as we get to Vancouver, you can return it."
"You bought this in Vancouver?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes, on our visit in the summer. I would have exchanged it if I could have, but there was no way to do it."
Poor Bill! How awful to secretly anticipate this moment for months, only to find out that I didn't like his carefully selected gift! My heart was pierced with regret.
I pushed myself painfully onto my numb feet and put the jacket on. The leather was soft and supple. I could tell it would be just warm enough for our mild winters. Standing in front of the mirror in the cramped half bath, I pivoted to see the jacket from all angles.
"You know, I LIKE this jacket," I said in surprise.
"No you don't," Bill said.
"No, really! I love it!"
"No you don't," he repeated.
"The only problem is I think it's a little tight," I said ruefully. "Do you think it's too small?"
"Sure, it's too small," Bill said dubiously. "It's okay. I already told you you can return it."
No matter how I tried, I couldn't convince him that I liked the jacket. At Danier Leather the next week, Bill said, "You can pick whatever you want, maybe something suede. Or we can just return it and you can buy something somewhere else."
I asked the salesperson if they had the jacket in a larger size, but she said they didn't carry that style any longer. She showed me several other similar jackets, and I found one that fit perfectly and was just my style--honestly!
I've worn the heck out of that coat over the last six years, and it still looks practically new. It's warm enough to wear outside, but light enough to wear inside if I want to. I had no idea how much I'd enjoy a shiny leather jacket, but Bill knew. Unfortunately, he probably STILL doesn't believe that I like it.