The Christmas that Helped Me Realize He was Different

When my husband and I dated, my family gave him the nickname “Sweet William.” It wasn’t that I had dated particularly mean guys before, but my husband was unmistakably kind, helpful, and caring. He engaged in thoughtful conversations with my grandparents, always volunteered to bring food to holiday meals, and walked my unruly dog whenever I was out of town or working late. He had a big heart, and it showed.

Even though I had been in a couple long-term relationships before, there came a time when I realized that to those guys, I was just another girl. But my husband was different: He expressed interest in the things I love in a way I hadn’t experienced in any of my previous relationships. My husband hated running, but bought a pair of running shoes and regularly joined me for morning runs.

I noticed his care and kindness, and it was of course these qualities that drew me to him, but it wasn’t until our first Christmas together that I realized just how thoughtful he was.

We met at my apartment on a frosty December morning to exchange gifts. He carried in several wrapped packages, while I had only one for him under the tree we decorated a few weeks before. I heated up two mugs of hot chocolate in my tiny kitchen, and we sat on the floor by the tree. As the steam rose from my mug so did my anticipation as I stared at the pile of gifts, unsure of what to expect and a bit nervous about the unequal number of packages.

The mound of wrapping paper grew as I unwrapped package after package, and slowly realized my now husband had taken note of what seemed like all the things I commented on during our previous four months of dating. A retro looking thermos from my favorite thrift store. A green (my favorite color) purse from a local boutique. A pair of earrings from my favorite fair trade shop.

I was shocked he remembered a simple, “Oh, I love this” offhand remark I made months earlier, and not just one, but several.

I was also embarrassed at the lack of thought and detail that went into my gift for him, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was and still is a gift giver. It’s not my love language; he knows I show people I care in other ways. But I was fascinated by his memory and the attention to detail he put into the gifts he gave me. It was clear that he delighted in giving gifts and that it was his way of showing love and affection for me.

What I cherish most about that first Christmas is not the gifts themselves, but how his astute attention made me feel. On that frigid winter day, I felt loved, heard, and worthy of being paid attention to.

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