Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nutcracker Sweet

Is there someone on your holiday shopping list who is nearly impossible to buy for? For me, that’s my husband. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve presents. He does, perhaps more than anyone else I know.

He’s my Prince Charming, my secret shopper, my partner in adventure and mystery. He’s spontaneous and enthusiastic, a constant source of amusement. He’s generous to a fault, something like the San Andreas Fault, and is in constant danger of being distracted in friendly conversation or gallant action or helpful suggestion. The girls on the ferry, where we met, told me in a good-natured grumble, “Marcia got the only good one!” That’s probably inaccurate in a world view, but I did get the good one for me.

And since we both seem to have the packrat gene well expressed in our makeup, we both agree we really don’t need much more stuff.

“Consumables,” he says, “consumables!”

If you look at either of us, you’d probably agree that we don’t need to pack anything else around the middle, or at either end to be truthful.

Our only concerns when we got married were practical ones. Would it be safe for both of us to live together without adult supervision? So we have a dog to help us stick to the rules, very much like the Star Wars C3PO, a Protocol Model. The dog makes sure we lock the doors, feed the cats, go to bed sometime near bedtime and bathe occasionally. He barks when we hug just to make sure we aren’t fighting. In all our years of courtship and marriage, we have never really had a fight. Oh, I’ve fussed about making sure the door isn’t standing open to let a cat escape and he’s pointed out characteristics of my driving every once in a while, when he’s gotten his breath back. But those haven’t been fights. OK, so he is seldom on time. He can forget what he went to the store for and come back with everything else, usually something good. As our only prenuptial agreement I made him promise me he would not attempt to be handy, but instead call an expert in case some household emergency occurs. So he’s not a tools kind of guy.

We like a lot of the same things especially mysteries to read so we can usually buy books for both of us. He tends to like the funnier ones like the Janet Evanovich’s numbers series and the Donald E. Westlake Dortmunder books and he’s big on the Elizabeth George Lynley and Havers mysteries, too. He misses Calvin and Hobbes in the newspaper. He loves the New Yorker cartoons, especially the Booth cats and dogs. He’s still in search of the lost episodes of Rocky the Flying Squirrel where Rocky and Bullwinkle solve the mystery that made Washington, DC look just like Butte, Montana and vice versa. He’s pretty sure I’m the inspiration for Danae in Non Sequitur. These things have all shown up as Christmas and birthday presents over the years. But unless Elizabeth George comes out with a new Lynley, I’m scrambling for books this year.

He also likes non-fiction that tells a story. We both loved Simon Winchester’s The Crack in the Edge of the World because it made geology so human. He read an enormous book that followed DNA studies for the origins of the British people and was proud to announce that his Irish ancestors emigrated from the Basque regions in prehistoric times.

He is interested in mining and metallurgy. He likes old maps of places he has been before. He accidentally became the manager of our local rugby team when he’s never played rugby in his life. Paradoxically, he’s also an excellent embroiderer and he creates his own designs. He cooks, sometimes without setting the kitchen towels on fire. He makes cookies, brownies, beef stew, a Thai dish called “Tiger Cry,” tuna casserole, stuffed peppers, and enchiladas. He has perfected the art of the steak on the grill. He also makes a very healthy but, to my taste buds, revolting variation of minestrone soup which even his sister agrees should be called “snot soup.” He has the urge to improve nearly anything with cayenne or vinegar or both. He likes kimchee and beets. He has an idea of the perfect kitchen knife, the perfect frying pan, the perfect soup kettle and the perfect rubber spatula. These areas have also been the inspiration for Christmas gifts for him. Last year, he said he wanted a can opener, a specific style and I ran all over town to finally find his Christmas present.

His wardrobe is simple. He likes khaki pants, blue, yellow or dark grey polo shirts, pullover sweaters, black socks, blue button-down collar shirts, a decent sports coat. He has and wears a tuxedo for formal occasions. He’s particular about his shoes, just a couple of styles. Last year, I showered him in sweaters from “NordyRack” for Christmas.

The dog and cats adore him and he loves his little furry friends too. He’s attentive to their emotional needs, worries about their health, takes care of the litter boxes [thank you, God, ed.] and never has said no when I brought home just one more cat. He is the dog’s best friend. He is the warmest spot in the room and therefore coveted real estate for the cats in cooler weather.

He is a lifelong baseball fan and was over the moon with the Giants’ World Series win this year. He brought me a coveted tie-dyed Giants World Series t-shirt from Game 2. He has told his nephews apocryphal stories of his winning pitch for a championship game, taking over for Vida Blue, explaining with a straight face that the authorities have assured him that the record book will be corrected this year at the latest. He has a Giants baseball hat covered with pins from years of baseball games, including a favorite specialty patch given to him when a foul ball hit him between the eyes while he was seated in a luxury box. Where was he during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake? At the ballpark for the World Series, of course!

He likes live theatre, musicals and ballet. He loves it when I dance with him. His favorite trips are those without planning or reservations. Considering he was actually asked to leave Christmas Midnight Mass one year because his off-key singing was “throwing the choir off,” it is amazing that he is the choirmaster for the ARC-Solano Choir. He has always wanted to learn to play piano but something has always interrupted that goal. He has a long history of volunteering to help others in numerous organizations and private efforts, including his stint in the Peace Corps and a return trip to India under a Fulbright Scholarship. And yes, I am really proud of him.

He is that strange creature women in search of a man have come to believe may not really exist. He’s a wonderful guy. When we were first going out, people noted our age difference, which truly isn’t that great. John makes much of it to flatter me and swears it is not flattery. I quickly found that his male co-workers were mystified at his success in snagging a younger woman, without bothering to know who I was or, even after years of working with him, who he was. To a man, they asked me, “What’s a nice girl like you doing with a guy like this?” While it was posed as a joke, I knew the honest ignorance of their query. I began to answer frostily smiling, “He amuses me.” I realized if they didn’t know by then, they would never know. They would be among the endless line of confused and dissatisfied men who wanted to know what the heck women want when the answer seems so obvious.

Truly he wants very little, except a peaceful home, time with kind friends, family to love, an opportunity to help others and a few literary thrills. He writes me mushy poetry for my birthday and our anniversary. He brings me surprises for no reason. He is, in short, my King of Hearts. Now what do I get the guy who is everything…to me? I’ll think of something.

Best wishes.

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