But one thing I've always loved about Matt is that he does manage to continue to surprise me in ways that show how much he pays attention to the details of our lives together, and that he will often go out of his way to shake things up a bit, all in the name of bringing me greater happiness.
Since my massive simplification/decluttering project several years ago, I have become a bit tricky to shop for, simply because I want anything that comes into our home to add value to our lives, to last a long time, and to earn itself a spot in our very crowded two-bedroom apartment.
I knew Matt had poured pretty much all of the money we'd set aside for each other into just one gift for me, and I was absolutely at a loss for what that gift could possibly be (since I'd requested nothing and the only thing I've talked about wanting forever--a full frame camera--is way out of not just our Christmas budget, but out of any budget we'll likely be making for the next several years at least).
So I had no clue what he could possibly have gotten me, which only added to the intrigue of Christmas (Eve) morning for me (since that's when we opened our gifts and celebrated the holiday with the three of us).
Imagine my surprise then, as I opened up not just one gift of pearls, but THREE---it turns out, when his grandma heard that Matt was searching around for a pearl necklace for me, she actually took out several strands of her own pearls and told him to select one from her collection, as well (and he ended up selecting the long strand of pink baroque pearls that Raven had happily worn around all afternoon the day that our car died in the middle of the freeway in Idaho when we were going up to a family function and that same grandma was one of the ones to come and rescue us). Additionally, we'd also bought actual oysters a couple weeks before Christmas from a local jeweler to have the experience of opening them up ourselves to find the pearls inside.
And the gift of pearls just seemed to be the perfect gift for all that this year has represented.
On all counts, the pearls he chose were obvious representations of how much he pays attention to my tastes and likes and dislikes. He considered the colors of clothes I normally wear, the length of the chains, and even thought about how much Raven loves to play with my necklaces and planned to get her her own strand of fake pearls so she could match Mom.
A pearl, by definition, is an object created by a mollusk as a means of self-preservation: basically, some grain of foreign matter gets inside of its sensitive padded inside as it tries to eat, and the oyster creates layers of a substance called nacre to protect itself. Eventually, those layers calcify and turn the irritant into the beautiful pearls we know and love, which are highly prized not only for their beauty and their rarity, but also the effort that goes into producing each one.
At times, the past two years have felt long and arduous and hard, with lots of unexpected challenges to face and lots of things that didn't quite go our way. In short, the past two years have definitely held some "foreign irritants" that sought to attack the sensitive underbelly of our lives.
Finally though, with the chance I've had to quit work and for Matt to work full time, and with the blessing of my health being more or less fully restored, and for us to have been so blessed with so much in between--
I can finally see the pearls that have been created through it all.
Christmas Eve morning was full of excited squeals and toddler exclamations of delight and a return again and again to the beautiful kitchenette set, to open and close the drawers and mix and mix with the wooden spoons and to stack the wooden food in its little wooden crates. It was full of reminders of how much love we share, and how that love has only grown and grown in the years we've been married, especially in the time we've shared with Raven.
We were reminded of the excitement of bubbles, we learned the satisfaction that comes from watching a child "get" how much fun it is to unwrap a present, and we drank in the home comforts of a warm apartment and a hot breakfast and the sounds of classic Christmas songs wafting through it all.
Even though we had places to be a few hours after our morning fun, the morning felt like a long string of unhurried moments, where there seemed to be endless time to savor each gift opened and each bite taken and each hug given.
In short, I feel like our Christmas together was a time to finally open up that sensitive interior and peer inside to discover, with delight, the iridescent and perfectly formed pearls inside, the ones that had been in the making all along but that weren't always comfortable to create.
So today I wanted to give my words of thanks to my husband, who always knows how to make me feel special and wanted and loved and needed and appreciated. Thank you, dear, for still working hard to surprise and delight me.
And thank you to my daughter, who has infused every season and every holiday with a new sheen of magic, who helps us to turn every occasion into something worth drinking in and paying attention to.
I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas with your loved ones, full of many "pearls" of your own.
(And stay tuned for Part 2---yes, part 2---of our Christmas, which I'll be posting tomorrow. Hopefully.)