pa·per – noun \ˈpā-pər\
: the material that is used in the form of thin sheets for writing or printing on, wrapping things, etc.
: a sheet of paper with information written or printed on it
He handed me a handmade card – a card his hands had made – with another folded paper inside. “Happy Anniversary,” he told me. I smiled.
“For me?” I asked coyly. “What is it?”
We had already talked about a weekend away for our anniversary; Steve wanted to surprise me, but our lives are a little too complicated for such feats. As I opened the card, I realized the paper inside was the reservation confirmation from the hotel we had discussed. In two weeks, we would go downtown Indianapolis and enjoy dinners out and movies and whatever else suited our fancy.
“Oh, thank you,” I squealed, as though I had no idea. “I’m so excited.”
“It’s paper,” he told me, making sure I knew what the real gift was. “It’s our paper anniversary.”
“Ah ha!” I responded. Surprised indeed. I had nearly forgotten that the first anniversary is traditionally known as the occasion to gift paper, even though Steve and I had discussed it a few weeks earlier.
I saw my husband’s handwriting in color pencil on the front cover of the folder pink paper, his penned script on the inside with a message of love and gratitude. I was thankful. So much love in a piece of paper. I hadn’t realized.
“I don’t have your card yet,” I told him, embarrassed. I had been sick for a couple of days and had fallen asleep early the night before. I knew the gift I wanted to get him, and we bought the new tennis rackets and tennis balls together later that afternoon. I thought of the time we would spend on the tennis court this Spring or Summer, and the fun we’d have together. But I hadn’t bought him a card and I hadn’t made one for him. I hadn’t written words of love like he did for me. Not yet.
Later that day, with still no card to give my husband, I told him I would have it for him on our weekend away. And I intended to. But life got busy, and I didn’t get to the store. “Make a card” had yet to find its way onto my to-do list. Work, parenting, bad weather, busy schedules: these are my excuses. But really, I just couldn’t find the words. Not yet.
A week after our anniversary trip, we celebrated our “second” anniversary, commemorating the day we repeated our vows publicly with our family and close friends. It was another opportunity for me to finally get the words down to tell my husband how I felt. I’m a word-girl, afterall. Tennis rackets were nice, but I needed to use my words. The day passed in a whirlwind, however, and when I laid my head down that night, I remembered the card I hadn’t made or written.
My whole life changed just a little more than a year ago when I got married. I suspect that’s what happens to most people who marry late in life – or at any time. And I’ve worried here and there that I changed when I got married, too. That I’d lost my identity or my ability to be me. But on the other hand, there are parts of me that I very desperately hoped would change during this transition. With a husband and step-sons to care for, I expected to suddenly be more compassionate and humble, less self-absorbed and self-important. As a wife and mom, I thought maybe I would just naturally listen better and be wise in the face of conflict. And I really, really hoped I would be a more thoughtful person. Turns out, not as much changed in the last year as I had thought.
Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I want to write, why writing is a calling for me. And there are many reasons, as you might suspect. But at the heart of why I write is my strong belief in the power of words, how we breathe them out from inside of us and give them a life of their own on paper and screen, and the way they find their ways into the dark corners of our worlds – each others’ worlds – and bring life to dead places.
My husband’s words did that for me when he wrote them down on paper. They breathed life into me.
So, now it’s time. I owe my husband some words. On paper.
WORD COUNT: 738