My husband bought me a car charger for my cell phone. That’s a sweet and thoughtful thing to do, but it would have been even more sweet and thoughtful if he’d bought it when he switched out our phones (without telling me ahead of time) 15 months ago and bought a car charger for himself, but not one for me. And anytime since then would have been good, too. But as a birthday present? As my only birthday present? And it wasn’t even wrapped. He just handed it to me in a Wal-Mart sack that he’d stuffed into a hair salon sack (he was getting his hair cut at the Wal-Mart salon while he sent our son out into the store to buy the charger for him).
I don’t use my cell phone that much, so having a car charger hasn’t been a pressing issue for me until the last few weeks, when I’ve been driving my husband to doctor appointments for his foot. The locations have all been about 30 minutes away, in places I’m not familiar with, so I’ve been having to use the GPS on my phone. That uses a lot of power, so I’ve been using my USB charger, plugging it into my car’s cigarette lighter using the adapter my husband uses for charging his iPod in his car. I guess he wanted the adapter back. Hence, my gift of a car charger.
Actually, he did also buy me flowers, but they were bargain bin flowers, and they’d already turned distinctly brown around the edges. I don’t mind bargain bin flowers, but considering he’s only bought me flowers one other time (also bargain bin) since we got married, it’s not like it’s a frequently recurring expense, so you’d think he could have gone for the $8.99 bunch of fresh flowers instead of the $4.49 bargain bin flowers on my birthday. He bought them on the way home from work after I mentioned to him that my sister had brought me a big bouquet of flowers. (Hers were not bargain bin.)
He did get me a nice cake ($10.99 . . . he left the price tag on it, and he pointed out that he got chocolate cake, even though he doesn’t like chocolate cake), but no candles. As we got out the cake after dinner, my sister asked about candles. My husband looked over at me with clear annoyance and asked, “Do you really need to have candles?”
I looked at him for a few seconds, hoping he’d realize that it’s not a birthday cake if it doesn’t have candles, but he just stared back. So I said, “Yes, I do.” My sister scurried off to the store to get some.
While she was gone, an awkward silence stretched between us. Finally he said, “I’m trying, you know. I’m really trying. I got a cake!”
That’s true. Last year he forgot my birthday altogether; no cake at all. So I guess maybe he just didn’t know yet that I like blowing out candles on my birthday cake. And he probably doesn’t know that I was hoping for a present that was a little bit frivolous and fun. Not expensive, mind you, just some little thing like a pretty necklace, a personal note in a carefully chosen birthday card, or a bottle of nail polish in a color he’d like to see on me. Something that says, “Here, love of my life, I hope this makes you smile,” not “Here, dude. Now gimme back my adapter.”
After the candles were lit (not too many . . . maybe 20 . . . I just wanted candles, not a fire hazard), there was a self-conscious attempt by the family to begin singing “Happy Birthday.” They all finally got into unison, but they sang so slowly and darkly, it sounded more like a funeral dirge. My sister twirled her hand in circles and said, “Faster!” So everyone sang faster, but the key somehow remained somber. It was like a funeral procession driving fast to just get it over with.
As we all silently ate our little pieces of cake, my husband said, “Tomorrow we go back on our diet, so any leftover cake goes in the trash tonight.”
And that was my birthday. Am I justified in feeling a little . . . non-special?