I married into a gift-giving family. My wife, her sister, and her mom, and her grandma(s), all demonstrate love to others by giving gifts. And not just anything…really great (often monetarily significant), thoughtful, love-showing gifts. This is great at first, because it always feels good to receive a really great gift. The hard part about it, for me, is that I am desperately terrible at gifts – both giving and receiving them.
To be honest, I just don’t like surprises. Here’s why: One Christmas morning, when I was 28 years younger than I am today (or 5-ish), I awoke, rushed to the tree, and found several large boxes under the tree. They were wrapped, of course. Like presents almost always are. They were even labeled (I think, and the myth gets more mythical as time goes on) as if to appear these large boxes were for both my brother and me. We were super pumped. Large boxes mean large gifts! YESSSSSSSSSS!
After our ritual – opening our stocking stuffers and showing our parents what they had put into our stockings the night before (underwear, socks, a little handheld game with little metal balls that go into little cardboard holes, etc.), getting dressed and making our beds, waiting for mom to make breakfast, and reading the Christmas narrative from the Scriptures while looking at our kind-of mostly creepy nativity scene – it was time to tear into those awesomely huge gifts and see what treasures lay within.
The boxes were empty.
Sensing our utter terror, dismay, disappointment, or whatever other emotions our little faces expressed, my parents told us that our ‘real present’ was downstairs in the basement. We all went downstairs to find a brand-new Commodore 64 computer.
For those of you that are too young to know what the heck a Commodore 64 is, or too young to know what life is like without a computer in your house, this is hard to explain. Regardless, as a five-ish year-old kid, a computer is about as awesome as an empty box. My parents saved up their hard-earned money in order to provide us with something that they knew would help make learning more fun, at least I think, but the excitement was lost on me. All I could think about was what should/could have been in those large presents that I didn’t actually get.
Needless to say, I have trouble trusting that what is inside any given present is going to be great, even when the giver only gives good gifts. I had a surprise party for my 30th birthday, and I told my wife that if she has anything planned for me, she better tell me, because if she doesn’t, I’m going to hate it. Because of the empty boxes. She came outside to warn me that my friends were in the basement prior to me entering the house. She’s a great person.
I really don’t know why I’m a terrible gift giver, however. I just don’t know how to think about stuff as something that communicates how much I love my friends and family. I’m really not too into stuff, for the most part.
This year, I asked my wife what she wants for Christmas. She told me she wants some crazy long socks. I followed up with her about two days later, and she said that she would probably just buy socks for herself. Instead, she said, “I want a letter”.
Up until about two months ago, my wife has seen herself as a ‘gifts’ person, you know, someone whose ‘love language’ is giving and receiving gifts. This is probably because of the family she grew up in. She felt pretty unloved, I imagine, being married to a turd like myself. But, two months ago, she discovered and has confirmed that her real ‘love language’ is words. WORDS!? I’m pretty bad with words too…like, compliments and stuff.
Regardless, I worked on my ‘letter’ to my wife today, which she will receive on Christmas morning. My hand hurts, but I’m really excited to surprise her with what I have created. I hope, for her sake, its not like the large empty boxes, but really communicates how much I love her in her real love language – words.