5 January 2011

The Present

As my earlier post, The Magpie might have told you, I am a sucker for silver. I collect silver rings. Being a slightly self-confessed hippy, there was a time when I used to wear one on each of my fingers, so I almost couldn't close them together without a gap appearing between each one. I've toned it down a little now (only four between both hands) - positively discreet.

L has bought me almost half of my silver rings, picking the ones which reflect me perfectly. He knows I fall in love with the art decor swirls, mixed gold and silver, the unique crystals, the odd antique ring saved from the 1800's that's got a dent and oodles of character. He got me one for each of our first few Christmases together, on a couple of my birthdays, and sometimes just because he saw that one he knew I'd love.

I remember when my Dad used to buy Christmas presents for my Mum. I used to utterly dread her opening it. When I hadn't managed to monitor his annual purchase, not only was it wrong, it was often a disaster.
All those mid-Decembers, I went with him to choose something for her; browsing around John Lewis and picking out a cute black Elle jacket which I knew she'd love, leading him to the perfume counter and making sure he sniffed more than the first bottle he laid his eyes on. I desperately wanted him to pick something for his wife which said, 'I know you. I love you. I chose this for you, because it's something which represents all you mean to me.' That was all he had to do.

One year, I hadn't gone with him. The present lay under the tree, and I had squeezed it on Christmas Eve, not out of the usual excitable present-squeezing, but out of pure fear, dreading the potential few hours of disappointed looks, tears in the potatoes and choruses of  'is this really what you think of me!?', tomorrow afternoon.
I eyed the present suspiciously all Christmas morning. Then after lunch, when the living room carpet had been almost entirely covered with multi-coloured Christmas wrapping paper, the present found its way into my Mum's hands. She opened it, and I swear to God, the following present happened:

It was a nightie. Ok. Not that bad, you're thinking. But it was an extra comfortable large T-Shirt nightie. Not the sexiest nightie he could have picked out at the lingerie store for his wife... In the middle there was a picture of a fat cartoon mouse. The mouse was eating a large piece of Emmental cheese. Yes, you know, the Tom and Jerry style, 'cartoon' cheese with the holes in it? But it was what was written on the front of her new nightie - in bold, comical writing - which made my jaw drop:


Nothing says, 'this is how I feel about you', than a literally and metaphorically, cheesy nightie.

This last Christmas, L and I agreed to save the money we would have spent on each other's presents and put it towards a holiday sometime in the Spring. With a severe cash-flow problem, and the disappointment of not receiving a Christmas bonus this year (not even a little one) hitting me hard, I was quite relieved to be let off one of the dozen presents I had to buy for my ever-extending family.

L arrived on Christmas Day, and within a matter of minutes, my little brother had arranged his bag of presents under our tree, whilst my Mum fussed about him and threw a Jack Daniels his way.
It was a couple of hours after he'd arrived, just after dinner, before we managed to get some time together, just us.
I'd gone for a bit of a lie down, a combination of too much sparkling wine, and hundreds of children running around. I'd barely closed my eyes, before L, who had followed me upstairs, poked his head around the door and said coyly:

"Bth, don't kill me... I wanted to get you just a little something for Christmas. You see, I got a bonus, and you didn't. And I thought you deserved just a little present."

He was holding a small box wrapped in gold paper with a matching tag, half hidden behind his back. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to kill him or hug him for how thoughtful he was.
He dropped the little box into my hands.
I turned it over a couple of times. Thoughts flew through my head.

  • It's got to be a ring with a box that small.
  • Oh my God. Not an engagement ring?
  • No, don't be stupid. He's not on his knees.
  • Damn - he got me a ring! I hadn't got him anything.
  • I wonder if this means the holiday's off...

I slowly undid the golden ribbon and opened the box. I saw him looking at me - expecting - scanning my face for any response. It was a ring. It was silver. But I was surprised. The time had passed when I should have squealed "I love it!", but I couldn't find the words. It didn't have soft feminine curves, or see-through crystals set in gold and silver. It looked strong and dark, almost masculine.

"It's just really different... nothing like I'd expected." I mumbled, my cheeks flaming red.

You idiot. Shut up now and say thank you.

I was horrified I didn't love it. But this was a present, not something I'd chosen myself. 

Just be grateful. 

Flashes of my Mum's expression flew through my mind. Specifically the time one Christmas when she had opened a Boots own brand of Evening Primrose Body Lotion and a pair of nail clippers from my Dad. Oh God. Please don't let my face resemble that look. I scolded myself. This wasn't my Dad we were dealing with, and this present was obviously no last minute disaster. It was from the man who had thought of me, of what I'd like. As if to prove my point, L piped up:

"I thought it looked Arabic and unusual... a really strong piece."

I took the ring out the the box, running my fingers over the smooth underside of silver. It had a thick band, and across the top was a strong silver ridge. Down the two sloping sides, it was covered in tiny sparkling marcasite crystals. L was right. It was unusual. It was nothing like anything I'd ever loved in a ring before. But there was something strangely beautiful about it. It spoke differently to my other rings.

I put it on my finger. It fit perfectly.

"I really liked it in the shop." He said. "But don't worry, we can take it back and choose you something else together. It was just something little I chose which reminded me of you."

I felt like a real fool. I looked at the silver ridge. It reminded me of a backbone; strong, secure. The marcasites although set deep, glittered at me beautifully. They sparkled and spoke to me more than a solitaire diamond ever could. A unique kind of glittering.
I saw a real present on my left hand. One from someone who really knew me - apparently better than I knew myself.
One by one I took all the other rings off my fingers and popped them into the little ring box, looping the golden ribbon into a bow.

"It's actually perfect" I whispered. "Thank you."


  1. This is such a lovely story. It's very sweet of L that he surprised you and the ring is just wonderful (that's the kind of ring I would have chosen).

  2. Loved the nightie story. Ouch. I also enjoyed the telling of your discomfort. Great ring though. Odd seeing your hand, and not knowing what your head looks like! But that's ok. Write me something longer, tell me a tale. You have a great writing voice. That's not a criticism by the way. I just want to read more!

  3. A beautiful story....and a beautiful ring.

  4. So much emotions packed into this post.
    I share the same preference for the silver rings. Your ring looks beautiful and exotic.
    I think it is perfect,perfect, perfect.

  5. This is lovely - you built it up really well and I wasn't sure which way it would go, so I was pleased it turned out ok - and the ring is beautiful.

  6. I am so glad it all worked out for you, I was getting nervous! Really enjoyed your post.

  7. Starlight - Isn't it lovely we have the same rings! I thought yours was wonderful too!

    Philip - Thanks! Im not sure about putting up my picture - might do if I write a post about my new hat though! You got me thinking about tales I coud tell. Love being set a challenge. :)

    Caterpillar - Thank you so much!

    Olga - I think it's perfect too. Isn't silver just beautiful?!

    Sharon - Thank you for saying so. I don't think I was sure which way it would go either!

    Happy Frog - I was a bit nervous posting it - thought I might look ever so ungrateful... Glad you enjoyed it though!

  8. That was perfect. And the picture made me tear up, just that one ring on your hand. :)