The perfect gift

Today is our 40th anniversary. I sure hope my husband likes what I got him.

By Beverly Lessard
December 20, 2009

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On December 20, 1969, my husband and I marched down the aisle, praying we wouldn’t stumble over our wedding vows as we dreamed of living happily ever after. I was just 19 and Philip was 21, and we were still in college. But we were old enough to get married while still young enough that we knew everything.

December 20 was the first Saturday of the holiday break at the University of Maine, and we wanted to take full advantage of our time off. “You’re getting married five days before Christmas!” my mother chided. But she was a good sport, finding me an only-worn-once wedding dress that fit perfectly, agreeing to make red-and-green velvet dresses with white fur hats for the bridesmaids, and putting together all the finger food. The church was already decorated for Christmas, and the local bakery gave us a great price on a cake. The entire wedding ran us about $150, or less than $4 per year. Not a bad investment.

For the past few months, in anticipation of our 40th anniversary, I’ve been trying to think of the perfect gift for my husband. After all these years of birthdays and anniversaries, he has everything he needs, has most of what he’s ever wanted, and is satisfied that what we can’t afford isn’t really important. But still I’d like to give him something special.

I began to think, what do I give a man who helped me pass second-semester physics despite all the tears, often setting aside his own homework to assist me with mine? In fact, during the next 40 years there would be lots of tears of frustration, which he handled pretty well, finding solutions in his heart when there was nowhere else to look.

What do I give a man who gave up golf for 20 years once we started a family? OK, he wouldn’t change poopy diapers, but he did everything else, including never leaving me alone so he could do guy stuff. He not only stayed home but also assured me he actually preferred it that way.

What do I give a man who, with a wife and three daughters, learned to join in on girl talk but never complained that supper conversations excluded the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics? He did everything for his girls, even taught them to drive, requiring them to learn and take their tests on a standard transmission so they would be able to handle all kinds of cars, just in case.

What do I give a man who helped me start my child-care center by taking over all the grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry? He was still knee-deep in his own career as an engineer but saw and understood the value of what I was doing. And he supported my business decisions, even when they were contrary to his own beliefs. “You let the kids roller skate?” he once remarked incredulously. “What next, baseball?”

And what do I give a man who, now that he’s retired, meets me at the door every night with a smile and often a glass of wine? Supper is on the table, and my mail is carefully sorted on my desk, sometimes in alphabetical order. He vacuums the floors and makes our bed, not because he feels this tidying is necessary but because he knows it makes me happy.

Not that the last 40 years haven’t had their challenges, but one of the best ways to make your marriage last is to remember the good parts and only the good parts.

So what do I get my husband for our anniversary? I guess what he’ll get is . . . this story. While he usually helps me with the editing, I kept this one a secret, like a well-planned surprise party. I hope he’s reading it now with a smile on his face as I publicly declare my love and appreciation for everything he’s done during the past 40 years.

And even though thinking about his gift has been a challenge for me, I know exactly what I want from him. It’s a bit of a stretch, but if I could have anything, I’d want another 40 years. The first 40 went by way too quickly.

Beverly Lessard, who lives in Boxborough, is the owner/director of the Boxboro Children Center and a freelance writer. Send comments to

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