Sunday, December 20, 2015

My Precious Christmas Gift

My wife just gave me the one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. It came at great cost.

We were packing for a Christmas trip to see our distant family, a trip on which we could bring few things. She was presenting me a gift before the holiday so I could take it with me rather than pack the whole box.

The hopeful look in her eyes as she held the box out to me, all beautifully wrapped, was melting. It said, “Oh, I hope you like them. I got them specially for you. I love you so much!” The look was strong enough that I was taken aback.

I opened the box. Inside was a pair of slippers. Excellently made, warm, durable, good looking and versatile, I knew she had thought long and shopped hard for them.

I never wear slippers. I have two very serviceable pairs, both of which were well-meaning gifts, but they are rarely on my feet. She actually bought these to replace my flip flops, which she detests. Admittedly they were getting ragged but in my view they still had a couple of summers left in them.

I was concerned that we didn't have money for these slippers and that they represented the beginning of a Christmas which we cannot afford among people who can afford only to give little. Every gift was going to put people into debt or cause them to sacrifice.

I didn't know what to say. My wife's love language is gifts, the joy she gets out of shopping for others to find just the perfect present for them. She had bought these for me, the man she loves and spent 32 years with. Money to her was the least concern. She had always been responsible for our finances and has handled them expertly. In her eyes this gift was very wise.

I remembered her look. I hesitated. My love language is time, giving it and saving it. For me, the thought behind the gift was always more precious than the gift itself. In fact, I didn't want gifts. A heart-felt card or something very simple, even just a loving hug, was always best.

I didn't want to hurt her feelings but I had been earnest in my cautions about spending too much money. I just started a new job. We haven't been paid yet. Our finances were tight before my job ended and were much more so now. How could we afford gifts, especially slippers?

And then I was a hit with a thought: Don't I trust her?

I hesitated too long. She guessed; she knew. I remembered the hopeful look I had seen in her eyes. Now her eyes held hurt. Once again her look was melting. It now said, “You don't like them. All that time and effort and I still got you the wrong gift. I failed! You don't feel my love.”

I felt so guilty! We had not yet spoken, but volumes had been said. I knew I couldn't hide my feelings so I opened my mouth and expressed them, gently. We talked for a good while. There was hurt; there were tears. But I came away with a much better understanding of who I am and who she is. I look at Christmas stories and gifts now from the perspective of love languages and found new interpretations for them. Every viewpoint has value; most are right from a certain vantage point. I could never judge a present the same way again. Each is of equal value, cheap or expensive, appropriate or not. I would be grateful.

I learned much from this conversation. That learning was the gift she gave me. It came at great cost. But I am eternally grateful for it, as I am for my loving wife, my great friend who loves me in spite of pain.

Merry Christmas, Gorgeous. I am sorry for the pain. I love you!

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