I’ve often pointed out that Otto is, in many ways, a far superior wife to me. He is romantic; I am pragmatic. He puts away laundry; I prefer to wash it and then wonder why it’s still in the basket a week later. He is nice; I’m kind of a jerk. You get the idea.
And so, with our third anniversary looming, last night I made a special dinner (if by “special” you mean “ingredients thrown in the crock pot on a wing and a prayer,” and I do), and as we lounged at the table after the meal concluded—discussing our upcoming summer travel, dreaming of vacation—I mercilessly mocked something Otto said and then did not exactly pick up on the cues that I was really and truly annoying him instead of being funny.
Like I said: kind of a jerk.
“You guuuuuuys!” called Chickadee, standing between us (as I realized my mistake and stuffed my foot further into my mouth with loving apologies along the lines of, “Hey, know what I love about you? THAT YOU USED TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR”), “You can’t fight! Your anniversary is tomorrow!!”
“We’re not fighting,” both of us answered, but she was not convinced.
I had to take Chickadee out, after that, and so we had some time apart to cool down, and when we got back she went to bed and Otto and I sat on the couch and watched some television.
Things were… decidedly cool.
I don’t know if you know this about me, but I can be incredibly stubborn. (Shocking, right?) So can Otto. There’s a certain kind of tenacity that drives people to try new things (good!), succeed against the odds (great!), and quietly emanate “You are both wrong and ridiculous” from opposite ends of the couch (uh, not so awesome, actually). It’s just one of those fantastic things we have in common. Ahem.
This morning he got up and got into the shower and I got up and roused the kids and checked my email and went into the kitchen to make breakfast just as Monkey arrived. “How come there are smiley faces at everyone’s spots at the table?” he asked. Having only had half a cup of coffee, by then, I thought maybe I’d heard him wrong. But no, at my chair and his and Chickadee’s were small, smiley-face-paper wrapped packages. “Wait, how come Otto doesn’t have one??”
“Because I am a terrible, terrible wife,” I answered, loud enough for Otto to hear me in the other room.
[Digression: This is the part of the story where we might ordinarily have to insert the “Oh crap I suck” disclaimer because I hadn’t actually gotten my beloved anything and he bought us all gifts. I believe that’s happened a time or twelve. But lucky for me I sucked marginally less, today, because I had not only gotten Otto a Meaningful Present, I’d left it sitting on his computer where he would find it later. But I am sneaky and so I pretended I was empty-handed, and because I do so often ACTUALLY suck, I think he bought it.]
Eventually Otto came strolling into the kitchen. “Happy anniversary!” he said, sweeping me into a hug. We had about half a second to manage a kiss before Monkey was flinging himself at us with a big “MEEEE TOOOOOO!”, so we hugged him too and smiled at each other.
“What’s in the packages?” asked Monkey, bouncing a little.
“You’ll see,” replied Otto. “Wait for Chickie to come downstairs and then you can open them.”
Chickadee appeared a few minutes later, and although I was packing lunches and otherwise running around, I was summoned to come sit at the table.
“Happy anniversary, family!” started Otto. “Did you know that each anniversary has a traditional item associated with it?” The kids shook their heads.
“Sure you do,” I told them. “Like 25 years is the silver anniversary, and 50 is golden?” Monkey continued shaking his head, but Chickadee switched to nodding.
“Right!” said Otto. “And because this is our third anniversary, I went and looked up what the appropriate gift would be. It turns out that for three years, it’s leather! So I thought I would get us all some nice leather boots to go hiking in.” I glanced down at the tiny package in front of me, and the kids did the same. We exchanged puzzled looks—no way were these boots. “But then I realized,” he continued, “that it’s not like we’ll ever go on a long hike, because THIS ONE” (pointing at Chickie) “demands that it be a perfectly balmy 79 degrees before she ever ventures outside.” Chickadee nodded and grinned. “So then I thought… hey, maybe some nice belts for each of you!” Again, we looked down at our packages. Not big enough to be belts, either. “But… then I realized that really, none of you wear belts.”
By now the kids were giggling. I sat back and waited for the punchline to this monologue.
“So I tried to think of something ELSE that would make sense, out of leather. But then,” he continued, “I realized that our resident vegetarian probably wasn’t going to want ANYTHING leather.” Chickadee nodded, and Monkey burst out laughing.
“WHAT IS IT?” Monkey begged.
“Did you check the modern equivalent?” I asked.
“I’m getting to that!” Otto said, gesturing for me to please just let him tell his story. “I did check, and it turns out that that modern 3rd anniversary gift is crystal.”
“HOORAY, WINE GOBLETS FOR EVERYONE!” I cheered, which made the kids laugh again, because clearly these little packages weren’t wine glasses, either.
“I thought about that,” he said, “but I figured giving the kids wine was probably not a good idea.” The children were now completely intrigued; what in the world could possibly be inside these little packages?? Otto took in their expectant faces and smiled at me. I smiled back. “Go ahead and open them,” Otto said.
We each ripped back the paper, and there we found… crystal suncatchers in a droplet shape. Mine was larger than theirs, but they were otherwise all three the same.
“You hang them up,” Otto explained, “and they catch and reflect the sunlight in pretty ways. I’m going to hang them right there”—he pointed to the bay window alongside our kitchen table, directly in front of where Otto sits—“and I’ll have the whole family right in the window.”
“But you didn’t get one to represent YOU,” I pointed out, “so it’s not the WHOLE family.”
“I’m the one who gets to face it every meal,” he said with a shrug. “There’s one for everyone important to me.”
And then there were many “thank you!”s and “happy anniversary!”s and I finished packing lunches and life went on.
Otto found his present later, but that’s another story. This story is about how I’m a jerk and he loves me anyway, and how this wonderful man never forgets to show my children that they were also a conscious, wanted choice and not merely part of the package he had to take if he wanted me. He wanted all of us, and three years post-legal-document he’s still happy to have us. I think.
I don’t know if my gift to him communicated everything I’d like to tell him, so I’ll have to settle for this: Sorry I’m a jerk sometimes. You are still my favorite, and the reason there’s always sun for us to catch.