Friday, September 21, 2012


When I turned ten, my mother made me the most wonderful cake in the Universe—a pink frosted, rainbow sprinkled number 10 on tinfoil covered cardboard. I kept watch over it as we made preparations to go to the family cabin for the Labor Day weekend. 

When we arrived, I gingerly carried the dessert to the picnic table, then ducked behind the pine trees to wait while the extended family planned whatever “Lisa’s Birthday” surprise they had in mind. Laying in the hammock, I looked skyward and swung back and forth, imagining it all, most especially my startled, modest smile when I heard their cries of birthday cheer. 

About fifteen minutes later, I straightened my green turtle neck, tucked my hair behind my ears, then emerged with a flourish from the quaking aspens.

Not a soul turned their head.

Why you ask? Well, that would be because they were all gathered around the fire pit, BURPING UP RAINBOW SPRINKLES AND LICKING PINK FROSTING OFF THEIR PIGGY LITTLE FINGERS!

That’s right. Stinkin’ fools had eaten every last slice of my number ten cake, leaving me with nothing but an empty belly and shattered dreams.

I never got over it. Told the tale every chance I had and laid it on thick. Fast forward ten years, and I had just finished telling my boyfriend about my blighted childhood. A few days later, I arrived home late from work and was met by my parents telling me something was waiting for me in the kitchen. There, in the soft glow of candlelight, was Sterling, holding balloons and smiling behind a pink frosted, rainbow sprinkled number ten birthday cake. I melted right along with the wax and held my ring finger out for him to size.

A few months after the wedding, we spent our September birthdays together for the first time, and I felt the weight of the challenge, as he had already proven himself to be a superior gift giver. I spent weeks searching, listened for the most subtle hints, and eventually settled on a Batman mug (his favorite movie) and a cat. No, really—that’s what he wanted. (Also a surprise trip to Park City, but I wouldn’t tell him where we were going until we hit Provo and I still hadn’t seen any sort of exit sign, then I admitted my plans, and we backtracked for two hours, but it was okay, because we were in love.)

He gave me a flimsy nightgown.

A few months after that, we spent our first Christmas together. I saved my paychecks and gave him a camcorder because he had expressed interest in becoming a videographer. He gave me a car stereo for his truck. And a flimsy nightgown.

Then came our first Valentines Day together. I gave him love notes, his favorite CD and expensive cologne. He gave me a rice steamer. And a flimsy nightgown.

Easter? I left a trail of bunny paw prints from our bed to his basket, filled with goodies and gifts galore that I had stayed up all night putting together. He broke the Sabbath to pick up a potpourri burner at Shopko. And a flimsy nightgown.

As Mother’s Day rolled around, one thing had become crystal clear—the ten cake was a total fluke. Turns out he thought like a man and he bought like a man. And though his heart was earnest and his soul was sincere, we finally came to the very sensible, if unromantic, understanding called, “Gift Cards or Cash and No. More. Nightgowns.” We shook on it, and have never looked back.

Actually, that’s not true. On rare occasions, I have mentioned a touching gift a friend received, followed by a childish outburst that it seems like HER husband is more vested in their eternal love affair than MINE. This sends him into a guilt induced shopping frenzy, and thanks to Smith and Edwards, I end up unwrapping a machete, beef jerky and a neck warmer for when I go snowmobiling. 

Which I do never. 

Anyway, now we find ourselves half a lifetime past those first birthdays. Officially together longer than we were apart. Four beautiful children, trips to Bear Lake, peach pie from Maddox and holiday traditions...weekly date night, inside jokes, binging on Netflix and his strong, capable hand holding my smaller, wrinkly one every Sunday in church. The same hands that brought me roses in the hospital, put up tents in the backyard, built a business to provide for his family and covered a cardboard platter in strips of tinfoil to hold a rainbow sprinkled, pink frosted number 10 birthday cake for a girl with a blighted childhood memory.

And finally, I realize that the very best gifts aren’t diamonds or gold, or light blue Jaguars with big red bows in the driveway, but rather it seems the very best gifts are made out of...Sterling. 

Turns out he really is a superior gift giver. Bless his precious metal heart.


Jennifer Griffith said...

Love. This. This is your best yet. And there have been some good ones. Thanks for posting! I hope your September birthday was happy. Maybe you should be getting him the flimsy nightgown for HIS birthday. Seems like he likes them.

Meredith said...

Awe! What a great post! I totally remember that potpourri warmer! hahaha my 12 year old eyes thought that was the best thing ever to have! i couldn't wait till I had my own house to put a potpourri warmer in! I know exactly how you feel about the gift giving. Todd is finally getting the hang of it! Whew! that only took him 15 years!

Mimi Sue said...

Oh my! Still laughing. Loved this post! Hit a little close to home. My favorite gift from the mister was a 40 gallon trash can! Try not to be too jealous. Happy Birthday to you both. Mimi

Mimi Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Salt H2O said...

Amen and Amen.

Coming from a long line of excellent gift givers- life got easier for me when I realized that Christmas, Valentines, My Birthday and our Anniversary are all going to be anti- climatic, but for being disappointed 4 days out of the year- I get to be delighted the other 361.

Juli said...

There is nothing wrong with wanting you to have pajamas. Of course this comes from a woman who wears her husband's old (skinnier days) t-shirts to bed. :)

Beautiful post.

Juli said...

There is nothing wrong with wanting you to have pajamas. Of course this comes from a woman who wears her husband's old (skinnier days) t-shirts to bed. :)

Beautiful post.

Krista said...

I felt like doing some quality reading, so I abandoned FB immediately and came to your blog for some catchin' up. Sterling is definitely a gem! I'm glad you can laugh at his manly thoughtfulness and I'm sure those nightgowns came from the bottom of his heart.