When we say we’re celebrating the holidays, what we’re really celebrating is love.
Years ago, meditating on this particular emotion, I put out a request: Tell me the most romantic but slightly strange thing anyone has ever done for you. I asked friends. I asked my newspaper readers. I even asked myself. And I realized the way my husband celebrated our anniversary — that is, by always buying me a pound of thinly sliced bologna — was sort of odd, too. But also very sweet.
And also very salty.
It turns out other beaux and their beloveds have come up with innumerable quirky ways of expressing their love. For instance, one woman’s boyfriend gave her mother a long-stemmed rose — for having her.
Another gal told me that to prove she was not just another “notch on his belt,” her boyfriend gift-wrapped a notched belt and gave it to her for safekeeping.
Many were the women who got surprise engagement rings years after they’d been married. A woman named Ruth, for instance, was enjoying her 25th anniversary party when her husband mixed her a Manhattan and mentioned it would be the most expensive drink she’d ever have. “My daughter let out a scream, took the ice cubes from the glass and melted them under hot water. You guessed it,” said Ruth. One rock contained a rock that would not melt.
Hearts, as it turns out, melt far more easily. I share these long-buried stories to share a simple truth: It is the thought that counts.
So think pretty hard about that gift you’re going to give.
— Cathy’s story: Before my husband and I were married, he bought me a beautiful silver chain belt from his Army tour in Indonesia. I was a young girl and proud of my 21-inch waist. We are now married over 25 years, and the belt still fits. Every few years, my husband sneaks a new link into the belt and denies he did it.
— Bill’s story: Back in 1948, my girl (later my wife), Rhona, R.I.P., went to help her sick aunt outside Belfast, Northern Ireland. We took a bus to the end of the line and had to walk another 5 miles to her aunt’s house. I swear I didn’t have a penny in my pocket. We got to the house, said our goodbyes, and I thought to myself, “Now I have a 10-mile walk home.” After I’d gone 2 or 3 miles, I put my hands into my raincoat and discovered half a crown — about 50 cents! Well, when I got to the city limits, I was able to take a bus home. That little thing made me love her even more, for she’d put that money in my pocket.
— Margaret’s story: Several years ago, I had a three-legged cat and an equally odd boyfriend. One birthday, I eagerly tore open the present he gave me, only to find that instead of the gold bracelet I’d hoped for, the box contained a homemade peg leg for the cat. When Christmas arrived, so did the bracelet, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the foot.
— Sheila’s story: Recently divorced, I hesitatingly attended a party and spent time talking to one gentleman. Afterward, some of us, including the gentleman, went out for a late snack. He held my hand as he escorted me to the table and as we were seated. While everyone talked and ordered, he continued to hold my hand. When the food arrived, he proceeded to eat with one hand! I found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything around me, except to wonder how much longer he would hold my hand. I didn’t know what I was saying or eating that night, but I did suspect something wonderful was happening, and I was right. I married the gentleman, and that was 11 years ago.
Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of “Has the World Gone Skenazy?”