They say that the pleasure of a gift is in the giving, not the receiving. I can personally attest to this being true. Last night, I gave someone a gift that gave me so much pleasure that I'm still giddy just thinking about it.
Because of the whole cancer-operation-hospital thing, which started on November 21, neither Georges nor I had any chance at all to do any Christmas shopping this year. When it came down to gifts for all the kids, that proved to be quite easy: a nice wad of cash (young people always appreciate money when they don't yet have jobs) and some yummy treats. For the significant others of the two older kids, gift cards were another perfect, easy, and much appreciated solution. And they understood the circumstances about us not being able to do any shopping this year, but they themselves came through with some fantastic gifts for us and for each other (my favorite was the wonderful, warm, dry winter coat they collectively bought their father - he really needed one!)
But Georges and I didn't have time to get any gifts for each other, either. We spent our Christmas alone, just the two of us, simply glad to be together and with me "sprung" from the hospital in time for the holiday. That, in itself, felt like a gift. And we agreed that after the New Year when things lightened up a bit, we'd figure out a time to exchange gifts.
So, we waited. New Year's came and went, and this past week Georges went back to work after the holiday break. We decided to do "Christmas" on Friday night.
Unbeknownst to Georges, I have had something up my sleeve since before I got sick in November. (Insert evil Vincent Price laugh here.) For reasons I won't go into, I happened to come into a little unexpected money before the end of the year (and no, I didn't get a book deal - YET). Most of those funds have already been reinvested, transferred, put in savings or earmarked for practical purposes or future projects. But I decided that this year, Santa was going to be extra-wonderful to Georges.
You see, my darling husband is the sort of man who puts all of us before himself. He's generous to a fault with me, his kids, his extended family. But we're not a wealthy family, especially living on one income, and like most of us who aren't in the elite 1%, when it comes to certain "big ticket" items, we have to consider carefully whether, how and when to purchase anything that's outside our normal budget. We're already nursing our old refrigerator along to get it to last until the next time we move, and our home desktop computer is showing signs of aging too. So you know what it's like -- priorities, right?
Usually Georges ia a bit hard to buy gifts for. But there has been something Georges has both wanted and actually needed for some time, but we weren't able to see our way clear to making it happen (especially after my iPhone 4 crapped out and we were forced to buy a new one)... that is, until my little windfall came along. His old iPad 2 has a cracked screen and isn't performing well, but he's been living and working with it as is, and never complains (and he uses it daily for his job).
So as soon as I got out of the hospital and when Georges wasn't looking, I placed an order (thank God for online shopping) and waited for it to arrive. Then I wrapped it and set it aside while he was at work, waiting with glee for the big "reveal". Seriously, I was SO excited about giving him this gift that I nearly gave it to him several days ago, before he even had anything to give me! But I sucked it up and forced myself to be patient.
Last night, finally, after catching up with the end of the dreadful events on day 3 of the worst week I've ever had living in France, we agreed it was time to turn off the TV and do something fun and uplifting - have our Christmas!
I had left a thin, flat package under the tree and instructed Georges to get it, while he reached into his briefcase and pulled out something in a red-wrapped package for me. I said: "Can I go first?" And there in the package were three gorgeous blank journals for all my writer's scribblings (he knows I love journals and I go through a lot of them) and a pen that he chose because it was the same shade of green as my wedding dress. (How can you not love a guy like that?) I was delighted because as always he is so supportive and encouraging about my writing, even though so far it hasn't netted me a centime. (But don't worry, it will. A LOT of centimes.)
Georges opened his package and inside was a nice midnight-blue protective case for an iPad. He was really, really pleased. He assumed, as I expected and wanted him to think, that it was for his existing iPad with the cracked screen, to protect it and keep it going a while longer. Then he noticed that it was for an iPad AIR 2, which is not the same size as the older model. With huge disappointment and concern, I said, "Are you kidding me? It's not the same size? It won't fit? Oh honey, I'm sorry... damn it!" And as I'm saying this, I get up and walk over to the Christmas tree, and picked up another package that I had hidden behind it. Georges didn't really notice what I was up to, because he was busy saying, "Well, maybe I can MAKE it fit..."
He was absolutely STUNNED as it sunk in, before he even took the gift wrap off the package. I've never seen him with an expression like that! And the next thing I know, he was hugging me like he never wanted to let me go, his face buried in my shoulder and neck, and I could feel the emotion running through him. He was so completely taken off guard that he couldn't even speak, although he was laughing while he choked back other emotions. It was the best reaction EVER! And then that started ME crying and laughing at the same time, too, because my little plan had worked flawlessly, and Georges was just overflowing with happiness and surprise.
Although he didn't realize it, because he never would have dreamed of asking for it, that new iPad was his Red Ryder BB Gun.
When he could finally find words, he said, "But this is too much. And I only got you those journals..." and I stopped him right there, and told him that it was NOT too much. First of all, I love the journals, he chose each one with my tastes and interests in mind (one is a Moleskin in pink, one has a quote from Shakespeare on it - in French - and one has a Toile de Jouy design on the cover) and I love how he is always looking for ways to encourage my writing.
Secondly, and most importantly, for all these years we've been together, what with me barely and infrequently working, he's had to support the family virtually alone. On top of which he has paid for me to visit my family every year (sometimes more than once a year) and for so much more. Now I was finally in a position to do something special just for HIM, and it has given me more joy than any gift I have ever given to anyone. The money spent on either side isn't the least bit important. He supports all of us every day and never does anything for himself, and especially recently when he's taken such loving care of me for weeks and weeks -- well, Santa just decided Georges needed an extra-special gift this year and that's all there is to it. NEVER SECOND-GUESS SANTA!!!
He still can't stop smiling as he sets up his new "toy" and copies things like his iTunes library and photos, and experiments with the upgraded features. (The fingerprint recognition feature, which I also have on my new iPhone 6, is too cool for words, as is the higher quality camera.) He's a kid in a candy store and it fills my heart with love.
Surgery or no surgery - I think THIS was my best Christmas ever. The joy really IS in the giving.