another cheap gift

Exactly fifteen years ago – I had butterflies and a new guy that I thought about all the time. We’d already shared a sloppy first kiss in the park across from my apartment. Talked music, soccer and movies we wanted to see. He pretended to watch Party of Five and watched me play soccer in the rain which meant I was pretty sure he liked me. But. It was still really new. Too new for things like birthdays. I have a tendency to overdo things. And even though I was totally and completely smitten I didn’t not want to screw it up with a big over the top birthday. I also didn’t want to screw it up by not doing enough. I was 19 and these were the things that kept me up at night.
What to get my new love interest that I wasn’t even sure I could call my boyfriend yet. Without scaring him off and still totally impressing him. I remember leaving a copy of the new Rolling Stone, a mix cd and a bag of peanut butter M&Ms in his truck.

I guess it worked.

Because 15 years later I am still wondering what to get him and thinking maybe a copy of Rolling Stone and a mix cd might not be a bad idea. 15 years is a lot of gift giving. Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries. Back then I probably didn’t even know his middle name. Now, I know that he snores when he sleeps on his stomach, can’t eat onions and what brand of hair gel he uses. The butterflies have been replaced with dishes, leftovers and soccer practice. But, I have been given way more than ever expected. More than magazines and mixed cds and even butterflies.  Other people’s birthdays are about gifting, but maybe it is a good time to remember what we have been given.

A few years ago I wrote this…and it is worth revisiting.

"The 19 year old version of myself didn’t make too many good decisions and was a pretty big mess. Yes, I had great friends and was involved with some pretty great organizations and loved Jesus…but it was no secret that I often skipped class, drank too much, signed up for credit cards I shouldn’t have, drove too fast and chased after all the wrong boys.

I’m 32. And I still do some of those things. But the last one I can scratch off the list.
Because, surprisingly it is something my 19 year old self managed to get right.

Thirteen Octobers ago, this shaggy haired guy with a goatee asked me to go to a soccer game with me. I had just broken up with a great guy, pretty much for being great, and the last thing I wanted was a new boyfriend.
But he was cute. And so I said yes anyways.
And he has been stuck with me ever since.

He was some magic combination between the good guys that I wanted to like and the bad ones that I always ended up falling for. He liked good movies, live music, soccer, Rolling Stone, the occasional beer, and Jesus. He watched my soccer games (even in the rain), called back when he said he would, held my hair, laughed at my jokes, made me a mix tape, called me out when I needed it, changed my tires and went to all my silly formals and date parties. He was patient. And didn’t scare easy. And he stuck around, even when he shouldn’t have. And even my 19 year old self knew better than to let this one go.

And today he turns 33.
And we have shared a lot of birthdays. His, mine, and now our kids.
And on his 20th birthday we had only been dating for about three weeks and I remember struggling with what to do or how much to write in the card. It was way too early to be breaking out the L word.
But I was completely smitten.
And still am.
And now, I don’t have to hesitate to say that I love him.
Because it wasn’t too long after that birthday that it slipped out anyways.
And that somehow over the last 13 birthdays, he has taught me so much more about what that word really means.

On our first valentines day, we were both a little strapped for cash and not really too into the Hallmark holiday so we set a 5$ limit on gifts. I bought a box of Star Wars valentines cards and wrote something that I loved about him on the back of each one.(corny, I know…and I won’t even mention that all he gave me a half eaten bag of candy that year and a couple of bouncy balls!)And now, because in many ways I am still the same girl, we are a little strapped for cash so I thought I’d resort to the same trick for his present ( that and the whoopee cushion Owen picked out at Dollar General).

I dug the old valentines out of the closet this morning and was intending to list some of the things on the back here.
Most of them were super cheesy, or ridiculous, and a few even made me blush.
So I’ll mostly have to start from scratch. 33 reasons in no particular order. With just a few of the old ones in italics.
1. because you iron my pants.
2. because you make me be a grown up when I really don’t want to.
3. because you let me be ridiculous and silly all the other times.
4. because you have really good hair.
5. because of the way you scratch your nose with your whole fist and I sometimes think you are going to rub it off.
6. because you make better pancakes than me.
7. because the inside of my car doesn’t appall you. And yours might just be even worse.
8. because you like good movies and music.
9. because you sometimes ask me to dance with you in the living room.
10. because when you read Hank the Cowdog to Owen, you do all the voices. (and I am pretty sure I have heard you read Purplicious)
11. because you are smarter than me.
12. because you are way better at disciplining our kids than me.
13. because there needs to be at least one person in the house who can balance a check book. or at least try.
14. because you can usually find my keys.
15. because you make me feel safe.
16. because you do more around the house than most dads I know. (too bad we are both slobs).
17. because you hold my hand sometimes even when you don’t want to.
18. because you sneak candy into the movies for me.
19. because you give me a book allowance.
20. because you paint Tess’s toenails. And sometimes mine.
21. because you let me steal your jeans.
22. because you like me better when I don’t wear make up.
23. because you secretly like Gilmore Girls too.
24. because you don’t let me beat you at games.
25. because you are honest.
26. because you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up either.
27. because you let me drag you all over the place when you would much rather be sitting at home watching sports.
28. because you rarely say “I told you so” when you are right, which is more often than I’d like to admit.
29. because you get it.
30. because you made me a book.
31. because you sometimes you let me sleep in.
32. because our two ridiculously cute kids look just like you.
33. because you push me and encourage me and make me better than I would ever be without you."

and I guess it is time for a few new additions:
 34. because you rinse out my cereal bowl at least five days a week. And only complain about it  two.
35. because you finally learned my Starbucks order.
And one to grow on….
36. you can fix things – like appliances, computers and lawn mowers but you rarely try to fix me.


And 15 years later. Your hair is shorter. Mine has been through at least a dozen color changes. There are more lines around my eyes. Somedays our lives of leftovers, spelling lists, insurance and bills seems a million years away from those two kids. But maybe it wasn't that long ago after all. And this girl, the grown up boring one, still chooses you. She'd be crazy not to...