Suspenders

Yesterday I finished my Christmas shopping. Hooray for that! I was waiting in line to make one of my final purchases at that Canadian shopping institution, The Bay, when a woman caught my eye. I didn’t have my children with me, so I had the mental energy to actually notice her. I could see that it was taking her a long time to make it from her spot at the front of the line to the next available cashier. She was pushing a walker, filled with the day’s purchases. I don’t know how old she was, but if I were to guess I would say at least 80.

She laid her items on the counter in front of the cashier. The two women chatted as the cashier rang up the purchase – two pairs of suspenders. Christmas suspenders for her husband, I thought. I built a whole backstory in my mind. They’ve been married for 57 years, and every Christmas she buys him suspenders. A small gift, but a thoughtful gift. He’s come to expect them. Maybe even anticipate them. By late November, his old suspenders are showing their age. But he doesn’t worry, because soon enough his supplies will be replenished.

I think you can find the meaning of life in Christmas suspenders, if you look hard enough. When viewed from the outside, it seems like a small thing. She always buys him suspenders. But start adding the little things up. He always makes her morning cup of tea. They can never agree on which restaurant to eat at. They each have their own side of the bed. On their anniversary, they always have the same chicken they ate on their wedding night. They read the paper together on Sunday mornings. All the little things that make a marriage, like small pieces of a much larger puzzle.

Casual routines spring up in a relationship, often without our notice. I certainly don’t carefully consider each interaction with Jon. We’re approaching 20 years together, and much of our life together at this point is just convention. Who knows why I sleep on the right side of the bed? I just do. Who knows why all of our towels are yellow? They just are. But sometimes, when you think about it hard enough, you remember. You remember that the one thing your fiance wanted to register for was fluffy yellow towels. You remember the way you naturally claimed ‘your side’ of the bed. You see the mosaic of a life in the little bits of a day.

It’s true that convention by any other name is a rut. Perhaps the Christmas suspenders are a symbol of a loss of creativity and connection. Perhaps, after 57 years of suspenders, her husband wishes she would get him anything else. Routine can feel comforting, like a warm bathrobe, or confining, like a straitjacket. And two people may not agree on whether this routine is well-loved or worn-out. But even that is part of a relationship. Another brick in the wall that you build together.

I wonder where I will be, 50 years from now. Will I have started buying Jon Christmas suspenders? I doubt it, never having seen Jon wear suspenders even once, unless they came with a rental suit. But as I think about it, I can guess what I might still be buying. The Christmas magazine. The Christmas pens. The Christmas book. We won’t give it a second thought. It will just be part of our life and our marriage. Not the flashy, glamourous, exciting part. But the part that happens day in and day out, and lets us know that we are together. Still together, after all these years.

Do you ever make up stories about random strangers you encounter? And do you have something that you buy your partner every holiday season? I’d love to hear!

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    1. Mike ALWAYS makes up stories about random people. Especially when we are in a restaurant.

      Sometimes I think we all end up like the characters in Date Night :)
      Carrie’s last post … Red Writing Hood- Love DefinedMy Profile

    2. Oh yes, that’s half the fun of people watching – making up the back story. And your comment about not having the kids so having the mental capacity to make up the story? I hear ya. Every Christmas, besides the other things he wishes for, I buy my husband clothes of some sort. In years past it has been socks and underwear and this year it’s sweaters and t-shirts.

    3. Since I was a little girl, my mom kept us busy in the car by making up stories about the other drivers, especially when we were caught in traffic. Some of her stories were so funny but we’d feel a little embarrassed if the other car’s passengers noticed us looking over and sometimes laughing.

      Anyway, I still do this. I make up stories in my mind. I am sometimes guilty of making assumptions. But I like to think that I imagine the best for my characters.

      I always buy useful practical items to stuff our stockings at each Christmas. I know this is so boring, but yet, these items are so useful and usually do fit in a stocking (like a toothbrush, new razor, etc.).

    4. it’s almost 20 years here too for me and mine, and i have no idea what to get him. i don’t have a routine gift and refuse to buy him the basic necessities (cos he’s a big boy now and can buy his own). he’ll probably get stuff we need for the house wrapped up as a gift (who says romance is dead?).
      pomomama’s last post … Just In Case My Profile

    5. We like to make up stories about the people that we see places. Sometimes it’s the only way I can keep the older boy from acting like a crazy fool when we go places. He usually makes people dragon fighters.
      Amy’s last post … Progression of Santa picturesMy Profile

    6. I love when you write about your relationship with your husband. It is sweet and comforting, and good to know I’m not the only one that has been together with her partner for so many years (we’re working on 17) and still in love. I remember our first Christmas as parents – me, hours in the bedroom with a colicky baby trying desperately to help her fall asleep. Finally, I emerge, exhausted, tired, dejected, feeling like I’ve missed Christmas… and… he’s bought a little Christmas tree, prelit, and wrapped gifts under it. It’s those little things that matter, and you remember. Maybe we’ll still have that tree in 50 years. :)
      kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Baby Led Weaning – What- Why- and HowMy Profile

    7. My dad used to want the same thing for Christmas every year. A bottle of Old Spice aftershave and a new pair of McGregors Happy Feet socks. One year we deviated from that thinking we were doing something special, and he moped like a child! He apparently looked forward to the fresh socks and a new bottle of his favourite scent every year. Well didn’t we feel silly?!

      I love the stories behind the faces too….

      When my husband and I got together, the “side of the bed” issue was a problem. His favourite side and my favourite side were the SAME! He ended up winning that one though because he did much WORSE on the “wrong” side than I did. So it was the lesser of 2 evils that he got it. Still, 18 years later, I often slip over to the “better” side after he gets up at 4:00am in the morning — LOL!
      *pol’s last post … Not being antisocialMy Profile

    8. I absolutely make up stories in my mind! It is fun :) I always get my husband holiday peanut M&Ms.
      Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness)’s last post … How to Make Each Gift SpecialMy Profile

    9. Sheri Willey says:

      We recently went on a cruise where our dinner companions were 3 couples who had been married 57, 54 and 47 years respectively. We got to know them quite well over the 2 weeks.

      While each couple were each different in their own way, you coul…d certainly see the imprint of spending so much of their life with another person. The husband that never did learn to cook because his (then-young) wife took over where mom left off. The couple that lost a teenaged-child and managed to stay together through the grief. The couple that decided it was time to travel after one started having health scares. The complete impatience from the wife when her husband starts telling the same story night after night after night. The husband who routinely moved his vegetables to his wifes plate for her to eat because “he doesn’t eat carrots”

      At married for 1 yr/together for 10, Terry & I brought down the average, but it gave me a new appreciation of what life could look like from that end. Lots of good every day living to come.

    10. I always say that Michael is the one man I want to annoy for the rest of my life! The little things do matter, although sometimes its hard to see when your in it. That thing that annoys you one day becomes an endearing quality over time. I hope to be annoying him with all of my little habits in 50 years. Things to look forward to :)
      Laura’s last post … Counting Stars in the Night at VanDusen GardensMy Profile

    11. Aw. I love it! For his birthday, I always buy my husband a golf shirt and golf balls and I make him chocolate layer cake. In fact, I think I wrote about it for Yummy Mummy Club. I did! I just found the link:
      http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/love_is_unchanging_nicole_macpherson

      Sadly, I often see elderly men shopping on their own at the supermarket and it is so obvious they are only shopping for themselves. I always think “Wife passed away. Now he eats nothing but boiled eggs, toast, and ice cream” (because eggs, bread, and ice cream seem to be elderly man staples).
      Nicole’s last post … Adventures in GingerbreadMy Profile

    12. Awwwww. I love it!

      We tell stories about people all the time. I love it. I actually really enjoy “over-hearing” people’s lives. I find is fascinating. I once thought about starting a blog where I blog all the crazy things I over-hear. (I live in a crazy town and there is quite the assortment of eclectic information being shared.)

    13. Well, aside from the annual “yay, I get new underwear and socks!” time, I buy him a different movie every year. Not really sure why I started doing this, but we love watching movies so I guess it started when first started dating and it was the only thing I really knew about him. I think, anyway. Guess its a good thing we don’t have any plans for being contestants on the Newlywed Game!!
      Jennie @ Modern Mamaz’s last post … Are You a Christmas Genius or a ScroogeMy Profile

    14. My husband doesn’t do gifts of any sort ever so although after 16 years of knowing him, I’d say we have our fair share of ruts, gifts aren’t among them.

      I don’t tend to notice other people, but I do spend a fair amount of time creating new stories for myself. Aka reliving a moment and having it play our differently again and again. I get a bit obsessed with that actually and often have to stop myself.
      Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … The Concert- Wednesday of Few WordsMy Profile

    15. I love thinking about relationship traditions/habits. We usually change sides of the bed when we’re traveling (hotel, parents’ houses) just to be different.
      Lady M’s last post … Munchy DiversionsMy Profile

    16. I have white towels, but I wish I had colored ones – yellow would be great:)
      Francesca’s last post … Corner View traditionsMy Profile

    17. I do that, making up stories about people passing by and what they might be thinking. I think it comes from having my mother encourage me to take bits and pieces, and see what I could imagine from that. We imagined the thoughts of objects like a shoe, a dresser, our car… almost anything we saw. And then people too – why they chose that color coat or skirt, where they might be headed…. I loved seeing how many different versions I could create.
      Stretching My Imagination’s last post … One Minute Writer- December 12- 2010- A letter from the sunMy Profile

    18. Funny you mention sides of the bed, we actually do have a story for that one. The year before we got married, which was the year after our college graduation, we lived three hours apart. Both of us were “setting up house” completely from scratch. But we knew we were planning to get married (which was our secret because we weren’t engaged yet), so we were trying not to buy the same things. He got himself a queen-sized mattress off of Craigslist, hinting to me that it was “so it would be big enough for the two of us.” When we got married, he insisted I sleep on the right side — because he had been leaving that space open for me a whole year! He had a pillow there for me and everything. He said he would close his eyes and imagine I was sleeping next to him.

      SO sweet — so I accepted the right side with no objections! When we moved, we tried to switch, only to find that neither of us could sleep as well. Guess I’ll be there for the next 20 years or so!
      Sheila’s last post … No- Virginia- there is not a Santa ClausMy Profile

    19. I think what my husband really wants for Christmas is good Scotch. Why does it feel like I’m cheating or not being imaginative enough or something if I actually give it to him — every year? I could call it a tradition and then everyone will be happy, right?
      Rachael’s last post … Wordless Wednesday- A Tree Lights Up in BrooklynMy Profile

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