My husband-to-be and I started dating about a month before my twenty-first birthday. We were first-year law students at the time. When my big day rolled around, he gave me flowers and took me out for a really nice dinner in downtown Palo Alto, California. (We were law students. Any dinner in a restaurant with tablecloths was a nice dinner. But this was a REALLY nice dinner at an upscale restaurant—the kind of restaurant patronized by lawyers, not law students.) I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was French and served the very best Strawberries Romanoff I have ever had. Mouth-wateringly delicious. Better-than-chocolate-delicious. (I’ve written about these strawberries before, but they are worthy of mentioning again.)
I’m sure we had wine with dinner, being that it was my twenty-first birthday. But having alcohol with dinner was no biggie for me, because I’d gone to college in Vermont when the drinking age there was eighteen. And restaurants in town didn’t card the college students. I’d been served drinks with dinner since I was a seventeen-year-old freshman. Indeed, California was a step backward for me, in terms of alcohol consumption.
We married just seven months later, in November 1977, during our second year of law school. So we were already married before my twenty-second birthday in April 1978, when he gave me the first birthday presents he had to purchase besides flowers and a meal—the first birthday presents that required real thought.
He gave me sandals and a raincoat.
I burst into tears when I opened the packages. I did not consider sandals and raincoat very romantic. I guess I expected wrapped birthday presents that could match the Strawberries Romanoff from the year before.
“But they’re Clarks,” he told me of the sandals. “They’re really good sandals.”
They were clunky, not sexy.
“And the coat is L.L. Bean. It’ll last forever.”
So it would. It was rubberized on the outside and made me sweat. (These were the pre-Goretex days.)
Both were very functional gifts. I wore the sandals for years, until their pebbly soles started pebbling off. I wore the raincoat from 1978 until 1998, when I bought a new coat because the rubber on the L.L. Bean coat had begun to crack.
I suppose what’s more important is that our marriage has been even more durable than these early functional gifts. After thirty-eight years of marriage, I now expect presents that have been given a lot of thought and little romance—presents that will serve me well and for a long time, just like the man has. I am rarely disappointed.
And on my fiftieth birthday, he did give me lovely black pearl earrings. Occasionally, there’s a spark.
Happy Birthday to me (tomorrow)! I wonder what I’ll get this year.