Monday, March 15, 2010

Personally, I'd Rather Have the Paint-Box

Looks like a birthday at our house!

Today is my husband's birthday. For me, it is one of the hardest days of the year. Not because I don't love him and want to celebrate every single day of his 30-something years. It's because I seem to fail every single year, to adequately express just exactly how happy I am that he was born.

It all started with the first of his birthdays that we were together, eight years ago. In short, it was a well-intentioned surprise party gone horribly wrong. It wasn't what he wanted at all, and although he forgave me within about an hour, it still makes me blush with shame. Never mind that we'd only known each other for 5 months and I couldn't really be expected to know just what he'd want, I still feel a little bad about the whole thing. And? It turns out, all he really wanted was to just spend a quiet evening with me.

It reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorite sayings ever, from an essay titled "Gifts" by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "... if the man at the door has no shoes you have not to consider whether you could procure him a paint-box." The point being that a gift (or an act of service) should be given with true thought for the receiver. My party-gone-bad? I thought it would be fun. But I didn't, in retrospect, really think about it from my cute-soon-to-be-husband's point of view.

These days, I try harder to think about this day and what it means to him. And, to be honest, it is harder. I want to do something over-the-top spectacular for him every single year. But even though I think he's over-the-top spectacular, he's not the sort of person who celebrates that way. He likes to sleep in. He likes cake. He likes new music, and time to think. He likes to cook. Sometimes it's hard to do those little things on such a special day, when I'd rather be doing something for him that's more, well, special.

I suppose that's part of what Emerson was saying, though, and it applies to every gift and every act of service: even though that paint-box is pretty, and even though it's what you really want to give, more often it's the simple pair of shoes (the small things that become big things when you see them through the receiver's eyes) that mean the most in the end.

Also? I let him make his own birthday dinner ... seriously, he wanted to!

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