I’ll just come clean. I was horribly delinquent in securing a gift for my upcoming anniversary. Three decades of wedded bliss, give or take a few years, and other than suggesting I connect my calendar, Alexa was useless. It snuck up on me like a Prius in the express lane. It’s the end of the grading period, I have two blogs due next week, houseguests arriving for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’m simply befuddled. The current plan is to head to the lake right after work tomorrow, just the two of us, and a box of Blue Apron. Sounds incredibly romantic but I am in need of a gift.
It’s not like I don’t have any ideas, I’m thinking of a magazine subscription, or a new book. It’s actually our thirty-fourth, which certainly justifies a hardcover, maybe even a Starbucks card tucked inside? Garrison Keller says, “a book is a gift you can open again and again.” (applies to magazines as well) I decide Safeway really has it all, cards, magazines, books, and a tray of sushi for my effort. I would like to tell you I reached for my car keys and headed out straight away.
The truth is Larry already has somewhere in the range of five magazine subscriptions. It must be my go-to gift. Time to step it up. The pressure is mounting as if an elephant were lounging on my chest. I pace the kitchen in total distress.
This is where you need to pay attention, you’ll thank me later.
I mentioned the mismatch before he left for work, I’m sweet like that, but ignored the incompatible socks just to be ornery. It’s early, have a little mercy. I wave good-bye as he heads off to slay dragons in an appropriate tweed jacket and black slacks. He works at one of those campuses with latte machines, bean bags, and ping pong tables. Jealous much?
“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice,” Fawn Weaver
As if a visionary, I get this unexpected inspiration, the man needs pants, I’m seeing a navy blue plaid, like a Scottish kilt, with a little more coverage. That would go perfect with the otherwise useless navy jacket. I pull up my well oiled on-line Nordstrom’s account. It welcomes me back like a long lost friend. The entire web page is personalized, designed to draw me in. The last thing I bought were sandals and bathing suits so it keeps flashing fashionable coverups and floppy hats. Tempting…
With great effort I bypass the shiny trinkets, and go straight to the men’s clothing, specifically plaid pants. Now I have never claimed to be a fashion guru but how hard could it be to pick out a pair of pants. Okay, after looking at fifty-thousand pairs of slacks, I am completely overwhelmed. At this point I don’t care what’s trending. Closing my eyes I cart the first thing my index finger lands on. Perfect and they have his size.
The check out process is regrettable. They can not deliver anything in less than a week. This is totally unacceptable, but then I notice the panic button, it says if you need it today, check this box. How easy is that? Yes, it cost half a days wage, but really what else can I do? Diane Sawyer says, “A good marriage is a contest in generosity.” I secure my purchase with a cheshire smile plastered across my face and return to a game of solitaire.
Within thirty minutes I get a call from the Nordstrom’s service department. They want to make sure I’m home so I can sign for the package or they won’t leave it. Why? Because they use Uber to deliver. Whatever. I tell them I’ll be home for the next two hours and they assure me the package will arrive soon.
Things are never as easy as they appear. Take marriage for example.
I’m happily munching on almonds, ridiculously content with my clever gift, I even water a few plants while I await the package. I spend some time imagining how surprised Larry will be not to receive another magazine subscription. I feel like Bridget Jones after Mark Darcy says, “I like you very much, just as you are.”
This is when the cookie starts to crumble.
Thank God my sister Nancy drops by with fresh lattes, and several boxes from mom’s estate, which she piles in my kitchen. I turn on the fire and we curl up on the couch like a couple of tabby cats. It takes us an hour to catch up on recent events when I realize my package is still not here?
I’m closing in on a crucial hair appointment so I ring the service department.
“Oh hi Cheryl,” the lady says, what the hell, am I the only one ordering today? She continues using my birth name as if we were best friends, assuring me the package is on the way, “Cheryl, trust me, it’s on the way.”
“I have a hair appointment,” I warn.
She doesn’t seem as concerned about my roots as me, “okay Cheryl, your appointment is noted, not a problem.”
Nancy and I start going through the boxes stacked up against the refrigerator. It’s like opening an old wound as pictures, monogramed hankies, invitations, cards, travel diaries, and such start forming a collage on the kitchen table. I have to tell myself over and over again, “You’re not throwing away your mother, it’s just a ticket stub, let it go.” I mourn every single item, but as the piles dwindle, so does my window of time.
I have five minutes before I need to leave when the dog groomer calls. His tone is accusatory and he sounds agitated. Dreadlocks were forming on Shaggy so I made hair appointments for both of us today. I thought we would be done at the same time, but allegedly Shaggy pooped on the grooming table, and they are ready for me to pick him up now.
I send Larry a friendly text, “I’m heading to my hair appointment, Shaggy just got done, and you’ll need to pick him up on your way home.” I left out the twenty-five dollar fee for excreting on the table. Shit happens.
I’m running late so I ring the service department, I may have sounded slightly accusatory and agitated, “Where the hell is my package?”
“Who is this?”
“It’s Cheryl, a half hour ago we were best friends.”
“Yes, what can I help you with Cheryl?”
“I have to leave five minutes ago and I’m still waiting for my package to arrive which requires a signature.”
She switches to an authoritative voice, “it was delayed due to severe weather conditions, it will arrive in twenty minutes.”
“Severe weather conditions? It’s sprinkling!”
Nancy agrees to wait (bless her heart) and I race to the saloon (I know, but it so funny spelled incorrectly). Don’t we lead exciting lives?
As if a miracle I find a parking space, probably due to the severe sprinkling, I race to the salon, and slip into a smock with only minutes to spare.
This is when I get a frantic text from Nancy, “Larry’s pulling in the drive, no package, what do I do?”
Me, “Tell him to leave.”
I get a rather nasty text from Larry, “Apparently I’m not supposed to be home yet?”
So you get the general idea, a three way conversation ensues, me trying to calm my sister, appease Larry, while my hair dresser wants to discuss style options. I look around for the hidden camera.
“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short” Andre Maurois.
The uber arrives just as Larry is pulling back out of the driveway. Nancy signs for the package, stashes it under the bed, and our covert operation is a complete success. I send Larry an all clear text. He is not amused.
Shaggy might need to find a new groomer, but we are both looking rather stylish, and I have the perfect gift tucked in my bag. On the ride up to the lake Larry says, “our present to each other was the trip to Hawaii right?”
So here’s the thing you need to remember, go to Safeway next time, they have everything you need, and you can grab a tray of sushi for your effort.
I’m Living in the Gap, drop-in anytime.