One or Two Things I Have Learned by
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
have learned a few things in my 44 years. I probably should have learned lots
more than I have, but even so, there are a few things I know. I know that you
are never, ever too busy to check pockets for pens and lipstick and crayons before
you throw something in the wash. I know that you can't expect people to guess
what you are thinking. They will always, always be wrong. I have learned that
if you love somebody you must tell them. Right away. Tell them every single time
it occurs to you. Nobody can be reminded often enough that they are loved, and
you never know which chance will be your last chance. I have learned that if you
need something you should ask for it. As a younger woman I spent a fair amount
of time feeling mistreated and underappreciated. That's no fun. At some point
I got tired of it. So now, if I want help with a chore I ask for help. This is
nearly always met with cheerful cooperation. Just as an aside, I consider anything
short of "NO! I refuse!" to be cheerful cooperation. It's all a matter of perspective.
If I'm blue and need a hug, I ask for one. Life is short and I don't
have time to wait around for somebody to spontaneously hug me. My husband was
born just on the edge of the Era of the Sensitive Male. The outside edge. He thinks
expressing positive emotions is sissy. So sometimes I have to help him along a
little. I am not too proud to tell him that I look gorgeous today, dinner was
fantastic, or that he is crazy about me. I think he appreciates me taking the
burden off him by helping him out with what I need to hear. I know this because
sometimes when I tell him that he's crazy about me he'll answer, "Yup. I'm crazy."
I choose to think that he is a man of few words and just runs out of steam before
he gets to, "about you." The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.
have learned to say what I mean. My husband thinks this is O.K. But he also thinks
you don't have to say everything you mean. He thinks this is my
main failing. I plan to work on that when I turn 45.
I have also learned
to mean what I say, if you see the difference. I learned this lesson the hard
way. Here's what happened. Christmas was coming up and I had a big surprise for
my husband. I can't even remember what it was, but it seemed like a great big
surprise at the time. Now, I was dying to talk about it. I wanted him to ask me
for hints and try to worm the information out of me. This is not his style. He
is not an information wormer. If I want to tell him something I am more than welcome
to do so, and if I don't, well, he knows when Christmas is and has no problem
waiting. Back to the point. In an effort to get him to try to figure out what
I had for him I said, "Let's don't get each other anything this year." I think
I was trying to get him to say, "But I already bought you the most fantastic present
you ever imagined." I don't know. I was young. He said, "Alright." Of course,
I knew, just knew, that he was pulling my leg.
I knew it
right up until 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I was so excited I was ready to burst.
"Don't you want to shake your present, Mike?"
"I thought," he rumbled,
looking at me out from under scowling eyebrows, "that we weren't getting each
"Why in the world would you think that?" I asked, completely
"Because," he said, the voice of reason, "that's what you
Well, he was right. Absolutely right. That is what I had said. Without
a doubt. So that Christmas I received a dyed macaroni necklace, a glittery pinecone,
a reindeer made out of a dog biscuits and a microwave egg poacher. And I also
learned an important lesson. When it comes to Christmas around this house, it
doesn't pay to be coy. If you are hoping for something particular you ought to
say so. Frequently and in a loud, clear voice. But now that I don't get them anymore,
I also know that some of the very best presents I ever received were lopsided
and sticky and glittery.