As a blind guy, it’s hard to pull off a surprise for my wife, Amber. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that far too often she has both purchased and wrapped her own gifts for Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. I often think of a great gift idea, and imagine the look of excitement and surprise when she unwraps it. The reality, however, seldom plays out in quite the same way as it did in my mind.
As the occasion approaches, I grow increasingly anxious about how and when I’m going to shop. I feel kind of bad asking my guy friends for help, but I still do sometimes. I’ve even dragged them into a women’s boutique loaded with ladies lingerie to seek out exotic Italian fragrances for Amber. The more I hesitate to ask, the gift anxiety builds like a flame from a fanned ember. The anxiety leads to avoidance, and I’ll put the whole thing out of mind for a while.
Then, when the occasion is around the corner, panic begins to set in. “I have a really good idea for your gift this year,” I’ll tell her. Lucky for me, Amber is absolutely terrible about waiting for surprises. “What is it?” she’ll ask. “Do you really want to know?” I’ll say, feigning surprise. Then, out comes the cat from the bag. I reveal my excellent idea, and add, “Only, I haven’t bought it yet.” Next comes my backward, yet brilliant, set up: “Well, since you already know what it is, can you help me buy it?” My gift anxiety is cured, and my loving and understanding wife appears tickled pink. From her perspective, the bonus is that, in addition to the gift, she gets to go shopping. “I’ll stay home with the kids,” I generously offer. This is like two gifts in one. Win, win, win. Well….maybe not entirely.
I really do love to surprise her. It’s just not easy, and it takes a lot of creativity. Here is a story of a time I actually managed to pull it off.
One of my initial tasks in my new position directing a foster care program is to improve morale and build an environment of collaboration. In some reading, I came across an idea that sounded fun. I recruited someone from my department to go to the store to buy a dozen roses and little glass vases. We then attached a note to each one that read, “A little something to brighten your day, keep me for two hours then give me away.” The roses were circulated throughout the agency. It did brighten an otherwise ordinary day in the office. At the end of the day, I made sure that I had one of the roses to bring home for Amber. The fact that I was giving her a rose that had already been given away four or five times didn’t take away from the fact that I had surprised her with a symbol of my love and affection. Amber was delighted, and you know how the old saying goes: “Happy wife, happy life.”