The Poised Warrior’s Valentine Gift
What to give Mary for Valentine’s Day tomorrow? She already has everything she wants, so “Don’t get me anything,” she always tells me. But I can’t skip this assignment because—I know from the 17 Valentine gifts I’ve received from her in our marriage so far—I will receive tomorrow a beautifully designed card with an intimate hand written note that says how special and loved I am, how lucky she is to have me, or how she hopes we will travel the universe together for infinity. There might also be a gift, something I am addicted to and normally banned from the house like chocolates or maybe something else that will be imaginative, thoughtful, and loving, a gift that only someone who knows you intimately and who wants to give you delight would find for you. In other words, Mary’s Valentine gift will be impeccable.
Looking for Gift Ideas
As usual, I don’t have a card or a gift with only a day to go. Looking for inspiration, I reread Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay “On Gifts.” His suggestions:
v Flowers, “…because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out values all the utilities of the world.”
v Fruit, because “they are the flower of commodities.”
v What someone needs or wants: Even if “it be a fantastic desire, it is better to leave to others the office of punishing him”—so just give it.
v Something closely associated with the person in thought. (Mary’s love is music, but she already has five guitars, an electric piano, a fiddle, amps, recorders, and—oh—a ukulele.)
Then Emerson riffs on how most gifts, like rings and other jewels, are not gifts but “apologies for gifts.” We feel diminished by most gifts we receive, he suggests, intuitively knowing that they inadequately represent our true value.
We can’t quite forgive the giver, he says, unless the gift comes from love.
I Have It!
Emerson says, finally, “The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
What is the most dramatic, generous, surprising and delightful gift of myself I can give for Valentine’s Day? What gift would we all welcome from our lover? What portion of thyself (can I change that to myself?)—what portion of myself can I give to Mary tomorrow?
Imagine my Valentine card, with a beautiful design on the front page.
We turn to the inside of the card to find this:
MY LOVER, FRIEND, PARTNER, LEARNING PARTNER,
WARRIOR TRAVELING COMPANION,
My Valentine gift to you this year: Tell me what you want me to change about myself and I will change. Today. Now. Permanently. Your choice.
To give you some ideas, here are some desired changes you have noted in the past, some of them many times. Would you like me to
v Embrace our dog, Jack, as my dog, quit telling the boring story about how you picked him out and brought him home from the Jack Russell rescue place over my objections, breaking your promise that we would only get a dog we both liked, stop talking about how three other families had already kicked him out and repeating over and over to friends the unfunny cliché that “three strikes and any dog is out,” quit mentioning to our visiting friends that we are all awash in dog hair in our house, start giving him affection, and treat him like the loving baby he is. Or
v Quit telling stories about your back-seat driving to friends over dinner when I think the conversation will be enhanced by making fun of you. And quit making other jokes in social situations about how older married people have merged, even looking alike, and how your hair is now as short as mine, proving that older women become more and more yang with their hapless aging husbands. Or, how about
v Stop acting like flatulence is the funniest human act, grow up, and start using the discretion that I would accept in the living room at Downton Abbey.
Or, maybe the change you want me to make is even deeper and more difficult.
I’m poised for change. I’m ready. Name it here:
Your loving husband who loves to see you happy, Gary