The tree was dead. Completely dead. Brown, crispy, surrounded-by-a-circle-of-needles-half-naked dead. And under it was a bread maker, that he swears to this day had no ulterior motive.
Three weeks earlier, we had lugged the booty from a bridal shower in the backroom of Breadeaux up the steps to our new apartment having just signed the lease on the second story space above the weekly newspaper where my fiancé had recently been named editor. It was $250 per month and had one leg of the city’s water tower sprouting from its roof, but it was going to be ours, together. He had moved in two days before and after the honeymoon, I was going to migrate the 90 miles south to join him.
His mother had very thoughtfully planned a small shower for me, but then had to change venues when word got out in the small town. I knew something was amiss when she told me that I needed to go register for more stuff because people were running out of things to buy. Hmmm.
So, my future husband had dutifully taken me around to every venue in the tiny town to pick and choose affordable items for our newly extended registry, like tea towels and toothbrushes. And on a whim, I threw in a bread maker.
In the winter of 1994, bread makers were newly “affordable” for the masses. Which means they came close to the cost of our entire rent and were the overpriced, fantasy fad people threw on their registries, but never actually got. Especially people, like us, who had completely forgone registering for China because the pricey porcelain patterns were far too expensive. But nevertheless, the bread maker went on the registry, because every bride needs a bit of whimsy. And anyone who really knew me, also knew that I wasn’t very domestic and would never buy me one. But what the hell, it could be fun.
And the day of the shower, to my shock, I got every item I had registered for, but the bread maker-- from the 89 women, most of whom I had never met, who had come that afternoon to catch a glimpse of the girl who would be moving to Wayne county after the wedding. My mother-in-law hadn’t even sent that many invitations. Many of them had just shown up gifts, potluck and plated cream cheese mints in hand.
And as we unloaded our haul into our new home, there was one more gift…from him. A Christmas tree that was set up and ready to be decorated with the lights and ornaments he had heard we were going to get. My husband had a way of making the most “minimal” gift magical with just a few romantic words. It was his habit and he had done this from the very beginning with everything from journals, to love letters, to three simple carnations because they were all he could afford. His gifts were the best, because each one had meaning and said something about us.
And this was no exception. So, we decorated and delighted and dreamed of sharing our first Christmas morning under that tree as a married couple only three weeks later.
But now…the honeymoon was over.
I sat under a tree that had died while we were away in the Bahamas staring down at a bread maker in a box where my romantic gesture should have been wondering what exactly he was trying to tell me about “us.”
And that was the present. The only present. No card. No note. No cute little words or romantic ideals. Just a bread maker. You know, for all of the bread he must have expected me to start baking him…now that I was his wife.
Fear struck me right in my shellfish little soul. What had I done to deserve this? Or rather what kind of man had I married that would buy me a bread maker? We had only been married eight days and he saw me as deserving of a bread maker?!? What kind of life was this going to be? My God what was I thinking? Was I thinking? He doesn’t know me at all! And really I don’t know him either! When it all boiled down, we were little more than strangers really. Now bound for life. I was now bound to a bread maker buyer for the rest of my life!
Maybe I had missed something. Surely that was it. I looked up into his expectant face and…
“It’s a bread maker!” He beamed.
He was happy about this. Proud of it. And obviously expected me to be too.
“Thank you.” I said as I sat and stewed in my nightmare visions of future giftings of crockpots and blenders as I thanked him in my apron and pearls just before vacuuming up the debris with my brand new Hoover.
I have made a horrible mistake! What have I done? My God, what have I done?!?
“I thought you put one on your registry. Didn’t you put one on the registry?”
“Mhmmm,” I nodded biting my lower lip.
And the cost! We didn’t have this kind of money! Here we were only eight days into our marriage, breaking the bank on bread makers! What kind of spendthrift was he?
But Christmas as a married woman was well underway and we had places to be. So I tucked the bread maker back under the brown tree and thanked him again as we headed out to house hop and spend Christmas with family.
“So what did you get?”
“A bread maker.”
“Wow! That was nice.” And I knew that she knew. My mother-in-law is not one of those meddling or nosey ones. She’s actually quite wonderful. So, if she already knew, something was up.
It turns out, that when my husband saw that bread maker on the registry, he got quite a jolt because it was completely out of our reach. But if I wanted it, I would have it, even though he couldn’t possibly imagine me as a bread baker.
There had been 50. 50 that would be available for $50 over 60 miles away. And he had solicited her help in preplanning and procuring one through the herds of humanity. And even though $50 was still a stretch, there it miraculously sat, under my dead tree on Christmas morning. Because I had wanted it.
That silly bread maker said so much more about “us” than any words or whimsy ever could. And I have learned over the years to be very careful about what I mention that I might like to have. Because he will remember and do everything in his power to make it so. No matter how odd or out of character or long ago, there it will be. Because it has been my husband’s habit and he has done it from the very beginning. He has a way of making the most “minimal” gift magical.