From the archives
“If you do not love it, I do not listen to a word you say,” Mike said triumphantly.
My husband holds the title of “Worst Gift-Giver” and I, in turn, have learned to manage my expectations. I’ve received a travel coffee mug for Valentine’s Day, one of his favorite movies for Chanukah, and a pair of gorgeous sunglasses when we were in college that I later found out The Outlaw had actually chosen for me and wrapped…without him.
But this gift was hyped. And he just seemed so proud. He was even boasting his listening skills, which I know that he does not have.
I frantically dug through the pizza-sized Mrs. Field’s cookie that soon arrived at my front door, looking for the real treat baked within. When I found nothing more than chocolate chips, I am only a little ashamed to admit I cried.
Looking back, I’m not sure what’s funnier…the note that read, “For you and your dad. Enjoy the lard” (I inherited his sweet tooth) or that when Mike is actually listening – truly hearing me – what monumentally stands out to him is “cookies.” And no, I don’t see the irony that “cookie” was my first word, Mom.
Through the years, we have learned that if there is a little bauble or something sparkly and sentimental that I happen to have my eyes set on, I am to send him an email with a picture and very specific instructions referencing how one might purchase such an item, so that he may file it for future gift ideas. He currently has a vintage 1940’s Men’s Rolex and a toolbox with complimenting hand drill in his inbox.
Yet, he never ceases to amaze me.
As I approached my 26th birthday, I was also eagerly anticipating Mike’s marriage proposal. After all, we had been together for seven-and-a-half years and Mom Squared had already begun planning the wedding.
So, on the morning of that birthday, when Mike told me to stay in bed while he ran out to get me birthday coffee, you can imagine my excitement. I snuggled in bed, my stomach overcome with butterflies and an expectant smile plastered across my face, waiting for Mike to return from his last-minute preparations and romantically present his big reveal.
And then I heard the door unlock. I thought I’d faint from the excitement. Who would have known when we were eleven and twelve-year-old kids at sleep away camp that we would one day be engaged? This was our moment!
Mike walked into our bedroom, put his hand over the cell phone he was speaking into, handed me my coffee and threw a rolled up newspaper onto the bed.
“Happy Birthday, Nic,” he said, and walked out of the room to finish his conversation about the upcoming Giants football game.
“Huh,” I thought to myself, registering no disappointment, assuming that these were just decoys – all part of his master plan.
I unrolled the paper to see that it was the Sunday edition of The New York Times.
I stared at it for a minute, puzzled by this odd turn of events. And then it hit me! Holy matrimony! I tore through that newspaper towards my holy grail,”Sunday Styles,” discarding “Business” and “Classifieds” like yesterday’s news. I found my section and began manically searching the wedding announcements for the words I now knew I would one day be showing our grandchildren, realizing that Mike must have orchestrated his marriage proposal within those happy black and white pages…
“Why else would a newspaper be my birthday gift?,” I reasoned.
“The bride is a lawyer and graduated from Harvard, the groom evaluates risk for a hedge fund,” “The bride was an extra on “Law and Order,” the groom plays the bongos in a kids’ band,” “Bride is keeping her name professionally,” “Groom’s maternal great uncle was a neighbor of someone that once ran for Congress.”
I scanned and scanned those announcements looking for the words, “We met at camp when we were kids and I have loved her ever since. Nicole, you complete me. Will you marry me?” Or something to that effect. And when I couldn’t find them, I searched again.
“Mike, can you please come in here?,” I finally called out, covered in newsprint and trying to mask my confusion.
“Do you love your gift?,” Mike asked as he rounded the corner, clearly pleased with himself.
“I’m sure that I love it,” I gently replied. “But I am just having a little trouble finding it.”
“What do you mean?,” Mike asked.
“What do you mean,” I interrogated, smiling sweetly through gritted teeth. I’ve feigned excitement over some doozies through the years, but this really took the cookie cake.
“You love reading Sunday’s Times in bed with a cup of coffee. Since we just moved to LA, I thought you would miss me getting it from a bodega for you every weekend, so I got you a subscription to make you feel at home,” he cheerfully explained.
It’s true. “Styles,” then “Travel,” then “Book Review” with a coffee by my side is my lifelong guilty pleasure.
Once I got over responding to everyone who asked, “What did Mike get you for your birthday?” with a simple, “The newspaper,” I ultimately realized that while it wasn’t what I expected, it represented exactly what I wanted. A loving gesture from someone who truly knows me. (It did take a few days.)
And that newspaper? It has literally been the gift that keeps on giving. Eight years later, when we are in LA, I can count on that Sunday New York Times being at my door, just as I can count on my now husband for always being by my side. Good things come to those who wait.