Written by Nandini Sethi
It was Christmas Eve Eve, and predictably there was a mad rush in all the stores, the streets bustling with late shoppers, cursing their time management as they do every year. My new year’s resolution every year since 2005 has been to buy Christmas presents on time, and without fail, I always make sure to be consistent with my resolutions.
My husband made sure to buy me something thoughtful, for every occasion, always keeping an ear out for clues or hints that I was dropping. This year I decided to adopt his tactic – a whole month in advance, I started asking him subtle questions- “what do you think of these shoes?” “Don’t you think a good-looking man should at least own one of these shirts?”
It’s true that out of the two of us he was the better-looking, more fashionable one. Relatives and extended family from both sides made sure to point out my lack of taste, often mistaking his clothes for mine. It didn’t bother me, or him for that matter, and we even had a good laugh about it.
Last month, on a forced trip to the mall (an effort on my part to gather intel on what Christmas present I was looking for this year), I was able to finalize on one thing. We were in our favourite store, strolling through, passing casual comments on the new winter collection. We came across a thick, woolen scarf, checked in black and grey, looking exquisite in the glass that it was encased in. I put on a whole show- big eyes, mouth agape, “wow! Isn’t that the most beautiful scarf you have ever seen?”
After having a 10-minute discussion on the pristineness of the scarf, and just how warm and useful it will be during wintertime, I was well satisfied that he wanted this scarf, and he would be overjoyed when he unwrapped his present to find the one thing he had been waiting for all his life. Maybe this was an exaggeration, but I was over the moon to have finally found something I knew he would appreciate.
For good measure, I brought it up again in the car. “Honestly, that scarf, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.” I got no response, but his annoyed smile convinced me that he loved it – he just wasn’t saying it.
Fast forward to today, as I stand in probably what is the longest queue this city has ever witnessed, waiting to bill the same scarf and wrap it with red and green paper, and place it under our family tree. After waiting in line for two whole hours, I made it the car, turning on the heat, carefully placing the present in the backseat. But the car wouldn’t turn on. I did everything, even kicked the rear, but nothing worked. I called up my husband, asking him whether I should call for a tow truck, but he asked me to wait for him since he was in the area.
I panicked. I didn’t want him to see the present. Our home wasn’t too far away, and according to my mental maths, I could run home and make it back to this parking lot before he got here. The only problem being it was pouring outside. But this was my one shot at a perfect surprise, and I was willing to do anything to make sure all went well.
I scooped out the package from the backseat, unfolded my flimsy umbrella, and ran as fast as my unseemly legs would take me.
I tripped over several fallen branches, jammed my leg into two puddles, and sneezed about a million time on the dreaded walk, but I made it home in one-piece. How I snuck in without anyone noticing was a separate story in itself.
The day I was looking forward to finally arrived. Christmas morning. Presents under the tree, everyone in their pajamas, gathering around the tree and waiting eagerly to unwrap the gifts all their loved ones had brought them. I wanted to save the best for last. My husband, sensing my excitement, relented, and promised to open his present last.
Finally came my turn. There was not a single year since our marriage that my husband disappointed with presents, so I was eager to see what thought and effort he had put into it this time.
The unwrapping felt like it was happening in slow motion. All eyes on me – the kids, cousins, grandparents, and even neighbours watched my deft fingers tearing and uncovering the red piece of paper. Shaking around the contents, I still couldn’t figure out what was inside. I looked at my husband and he smiled; he had that smug look on, indicating he knew what he had bought was probably the best gift this Christmas. I had a feeling it was the shoes I had my eyes on for months now.
Unable to take the attention and suspense and longer, I tore the wrapping paper in one swift motion. Removing the gift from its plastic covering, I was amazed to see what was inside. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I didn’t know how to react.
In the end all I did was snatch my present from my husband’s hand and profusely promise I would bring him something else tomorrow. When he asked why, I whispered into his ear,
“the scarf you bought me is the same one I got you.”
Leave a Reply