(As told to Aarti Pathak)
What do you give a man who has everything?
My husband and I had completed about 25 years of marriage, and we now stood at a station in life where we had everything that we needed and that money could buy. His birthday was in a couple of days and I was worried, as I couldn’t decide what to get him for his special day. Clothes, shoes, cufflinks, gadgets seemed so passé; I needed to give him something special.
I had first met him just after I had finished college. We fell in love and got married soon thereafter. I remember the crazed, intoxicating first few years of our marriage. For his first birthday after our marriage, I had feverishly raided stationery stores and purchased enough supplies to make a lifetime of birthday cards of all kinds! I sat up for days on end painting, cutting, sticking, colouring, sprinkling, sketching…by the end of it, I had dozens of birthday cards ready.
It never really struck me that I should buy him a present! In college, and earlier in my school days, we made our own gifts for our friends and loved ones – partly because it was all that we could afford, but mostly because a gift was a labour of love.
I excelled in art and craft and loved to make cards.
All the cards I sent
A few years ago, while rummaging through a cupboard looking for some papers, I noticed a neatly wrapped bundle at the rear of the shelf. Curious, I pulled it out and opened it. Carefully preserved inside was every card that I had made for my husband. Added year after year, even the smaller and simpler cards were there. Every single one. I ran my fingers over them, many now brittle, the flowers on them dried, the glitter on them smudged and partly faded. The cards were still pretty, embossed with little love poems written so long ago, that brought back a flood of memories of our first few years together.
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For some birthdays there were just simple handwritten notes on plain paper; from the years when the children were small. Some cute ones emerged where the children had scribbled on them along with me. Then there were some notes with messages that moistened my eyes; they were from the years I was dealing with my cancer. I was an orphan myself: he and his family had been rock-solid support to me through that time.
How young we were
There were some recent cards. One of them had our photograph pasted on it. I loved that photograph for so many reasons. My hair had grown back and I had got a new hair cut. That day I had felt sleek and healthy after a very long time. His arm was around me and he held me like he never wanted to lose me, his head a little tilted towards me. I stared at the photograph for a long time…and then put everything neatly back where I found it. My fingertips glistened with the glitter and colours from the cards, as did my cheeks where I had wiped my tears.
I asked him about the bundle of cards when we went to bed that night. “Of course I have preserved all those beautiful lovely cards, each and everyone of them,” he softly replied. Then he wrapped me in his arms and we slowly fell asleep.
What do you give a man who has everything and has given you a lifetime of unconditional love and happiness?
Well, you can just give him more love.
And if you’re lucky, you get to spend another 25 years with him.
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