The box, the bow, the anticipation. Love a gift. And love giving a gift.
One Mother's Day, when our son was 3, I got nothing. No card, no gift. The look on my face sent Mike scurrying to the store. He came home with a bag of red licorice. Not even a big bag.
One Christmas he asked if we could just skip giving each other gifts. Going to the mall was stressful. His Mom took him aside and told Mike that if she and my father in law could give gifts to each other, even through some very lean years, Mike was going out and getting me a Christmas present.
Since then there have been appropriate boxes and cards for all the usual occasions. But Mike's heart isn't in it and he pretty much begs me to tell him what to buy. Some of my friends get jewelry or flowers or clothes or other lovely things. And for years I compared my gift situation and came up wanting.
But then I grew up and noticed that Mike helped take care of my Mom. He always empties the dishwasher, encourages me to buy stamp stuff, takes out the garbage cans and brings them in, and rides the subway and walks a mile home so I get the air conditioned car. He encourages me to retire when work weighs me down even though money would be very tight, and keeps me company when I'm watching stupid Housewives TV shows "because it is better sitting with you than sitting alone."
I don't have a lot of boxes to unwrap. No ribbon to toss. No anticipation of what's in the box. I'm not surprised anymore by Mike's love. It doesn't come in a box. But I'm still thrilled when I hear his key in the lock at the end of the day. The surprise is that he still shows up, smiling and happy to see me, despite my whining. Putting up with me -- the best gift of all.