I’ve never been a big gift lover, but I have always been happy when someone thought of me. During my first marriage, I was often wistful that my then-husband wasn’t the type of person to go into a grocery store to pick up something and then see something else — say, a pint of vanilla frozen yogurt — and get it because he knew I would love it. Basically because it made him think of me.
Now, to be fair, if I had asked him to get it while he was going to the grocery store, he would have. But sometimes I wanted him to just happen to do something for me because he had thought of me. Maybe his mind didn’t work that way. Whatever the reason, I got used to it, and I told myself it was fine, it didn’t matter, I had everything I needed. And that was true, to a point. And anyway, I liked the idea of not relying on anyone else. I wanted to be independent.
In my first marriage, we were definitely that. When I look back, I can see how much we were like two planets whose orbits never crossed.
After we split up, I did what I had always done: I took care of myself. If I needed or wanted something, I got it. It took two of my male friends to make me realize I needed to be more open to people doing things for me, giving me things, thinking of me.
If someone offered to help me, I stopped saying, “No, I’m fine.” I learned to say, “Thank you. That would be great.” One time, my garbage disposal went out; one of these friends said he would replace it. Another time I wanted a car stereo with a CD player in my car; my two friends said if I got it, they would install it. We cooked meals for each other every Sunday, and we always took into account each other’s preferences, restrictions, and tastes. When it was my turn, I loved planning the dinner and slicing, sautéing and baking. When it was each of their turns, I loved having whatever they had made on a warm plate in front of me.
Had I been so worried before about being independent that I had given off a vibe that I didn’t need anyone to do things for me? Maybe. At any rate, these two friends taught me that independence didn’t have to mean only giving and not receiving, that all relationships are give and take.
Now, I am married to a man who regularly thinks of me. One time, I remarked on a pink fleece jacket someone had on that I loved, and a few weeks later, one arrived in the mail just for me. When my back started hurting because I was sitting so much, he said I should get a stand-up desk, and he researched the best brands and got a desk for me. When the big box arrived at our house I figured it would stay packaged for a few weeks — he’s incredibly busy at work and has long days — but as soon as he got home from work that night, he changed clothes, got out his toolbox, and put the thing together. Thank you, I said. I love you, I said.
And I went into the kitchen and started to make dinner, thinking as I always do of what he likes and doesn’t like, and opening the refrigerator, pulling out the cutting board, beginning the easy, daily work.
Shuly Cawood is an award-winning writer who lives in Johnson City. Her latest book is a short story collection, “A Small Thing to Want: stories.”