One of the things both my wife and I enjoyed about our tediously long engagement was registering for wedding gifts. Chrisie liked it because it was another step toward marriage. I liked it because I got to use the bar code scanner gun (and like every other guy pretended it was a gun and held it properly as I peered around aisles. Chrisie was so proud). We made sure to register for several inexpensive items so our friends, who were broke college students like us, could buy something if they wanted. We also registered for several small appliances, but in our naiveté didn’t register for anything over $50. Everything we registered for was something we needed or wanted. If only everyone had stuck to the list.
Shortly before our wedding one of the delightful older ladies from the church we attend approached me with what she assured me was a grave concern.
“Leighton,” she said as she grasped my arm to pull me aside, “I went to buy you a wedding gift but ran into a difficult situation.”
“Was it the little wedding registry kiosk? BEcause I can print off the list for you if you need me to.”
“No,” she answered with a dismissive wave, “I had no difficulty procuring the list. I did have difficulty finding something to purchase on it.”
“Huh, that’s weird. I’m pretty sure there’s stuff left.”
“No, no that’s not the problem. The problem is that we wanted to get you something, ah, substantial.”
“Oh,” I said, “You mean the bigger items are already taken?”
She looked at me as one looks at the intellectually inferior and said, “You still misunderstand. There are still larger items on your list, but they are not substantial enough.”
“I see.” Comprehension dawned. “Well, actually, we could use a good television. Chrisie doesn’t have one and mine is rather small and worn out.”
She subtly tilted her chin upward and made the tiniest snort. “I would prefer to purchase something worthwhile.”
“Well,” I said quickly, “WE would like a TV, but you may get us whatever you please of course.”
She seemed satisfied. I told Chrisie about it, but didn’t think about it much more. Well, I didn’t think about it until after one of Chrisie’s bridal showers and I helped her unload the gifts.
“What’s this?” I asked her when I noticed a rectangular box about five inches wide but three feet tall.
“Go ahead and open it.”
“Wow, this is heavy,” I said as I picked up the box, “It feels substantial.”
“Oh, so you know who it’s from,” she said with a laugh.
I opened the box to find the biggest candlestick I have ever held. It was heavy. It was ornate. It was silver.
“This is way better than a TV,” I said.
“Really?” She seemed unconvinced.
“Yeah. Now I’m all set if I ever need to murder Colonel Mustard in the Billiards Room!”
I wish I could say we displayed that candlestick in a place of honor and that we used it often. I wish I could. It’s currently somewhere in our attic. It seems like we should have parted with it several years ago, but we just can’t let go. Maybe it’s because it was a gift, or it could be that we are somehow convinced it might come in handy. Professor Plum has been moping about the Conservatory too much, so it’s good to have. Just in case.
At least I understood the logic behind that gift. While impractical for us, it was nice (and substantial). I received one gift however that defies all reason as a wedding gift. I got it at a shower thrown in my honor (and that is definitely a story for another time) and it came from someone who told us we should never get married (spoiler alert: he was wrong).
I do have to admit it was memorable. I remember a few of the specific gifts given that night, but his far outshines them all in my memory. I opened the gift and stared at the shrink wrapped box in my hands. I held a pristine 3D puzzle of the Titanic. I turned the box over a couple of times to find the punch line because I figured it was a joke. It wasn’t.
“It’s a puzzle,” he offered.
“Uh, yeah, I can see that. I don’t get it.”
“You like puzzles.”
“I get that. I don’t get why I have it as a wedding present.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dude, it’s the Titanic. It’s literally a sinking ship.”
“Is it a comment on my marriage?”
“No, of course not. I meant it as a symbol of unity of purpose.”
“Unity of purpose.”
“Yeah. I wanted you to think about unity of purpose when you put it together. Like you and Chrisie will put your marriage together.”
“And then it sinks to the bottom of the ocean for decades?”
“No it’s unity of purpose.”
“No, it’s the Titanic. It’s one of the largest marine tragedies in history when over 1500 people lost their lives.”
He continued insisting it was a symbol of “unity of purpose.” I still don’t get it. I’m not really sure he did either.
The funny thing is, I still have that puzzle. It’s in the box and unopened. I don’t want to throw it away because now it reminds me that my marriage is stronger than he ever thought it would be. It reminds me of the greatest wedding gift I got: a wife that loves me year after year. A woman I can count on above everyone else. A love that grows stronger over time. The gift only she could give me.
I just hope I gave her half as good a gift.