Brent and I just returned from a nine-day trip to Massachusetts. We enjoyed a snow-filled weekend in Boston with friends and then headed west to spend the holidays with Brent’s family.
Over the next few days, we went for a couple runs, people-watched at the Yankee Candle Village, scoured the area for Legos, and took in a double feature of Invictus and Up in the Air.
And then came Christmas.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Christmas. As a begrudging follower of Hannukah Harry, I would gaze longingly at the lights, press my nose to the car window every time we passed a tree farm, sing along mightily each time I heard Feliz Navidad. One year, I hung a stocking under my bedroom window, but come Christmas morning, it had mysteriously disappeared. I was convinced that Santa had taken it in hopes of putting this Christmas-loving Jew in her place. (Only later did I learn that my sister had hidden it.)
And then I met Brent.
We got together at the end of January and were engaged by mid-October, so when December rolled around, he had a pretty good idea that we’d be spending a lot of Christmases together. And he was determined to make that first one a holiday to remember.
A few days after we moved in together, he picked me up at my parents’ house for an afternoon filled with surprises. First, he handed me a Christmas cookie cookbook. “Pick out a recipe,” he said as we pulled up to the grocery store. “We’ll get the ingredients now and bake when we get home.”
From there, we headed west, out of the city, past the suburbs, and pulled up to a farm. We picked up a saw, hiked out to the fields, and cut down our very own Christmas tree.
After filling up on hot apple cider, we made a pit stop at the mall to pick up a fireplace set.
And when we pulled onto our block later that night, I found the house covered in Christmas lights, adorned with everything from Christmas placemats on the dining room table to Christmas movies in the living room. In the midst of it all was a huge box of ornaments.
It was the best first Christmas ever.
But this year, he may have topped it.
In general, December 25, 2009 was like all of the other Christmases we’ve spent in Amherst. Brent’s siblings and their families weren’t coming out until the weekend, so we enjoyed a quiet morning with his folks, and an afternoon out on the trails. Brent and I set a limit on presents for each other, and I had given him his main gift at my family’s Chanukah celebration – a night of winter camping.
Though Brent had been taunting me for weeks about a Christmas surprise, I wasn’t expecting much of anything when we sat down to check out the presents under the tree. His parents opened the digital photo frame we got for them. I handed Brent a copy of the Hangover on blu-ray, and he gave me a couple dvds. We got a new bike rack and the Ken Burns’ National Parks documentary from his parents, among other things.
And then, as his folks were exchanging presents from each other, Brent handed me a small wrapped package. “I’m sorry it didn’t turn out better,” he said. “I know how to fix it next time.”
I looked at the present. It wasn’t heavy. It didn’t rattle when I shook it. It was shaped like a book but didn’t quite feel like one.
And then I opened it. And nearly started to cry.
Have Dental Floss Will Travel
Edited by Brent
Brent had printed out the past twelve months of blog entries, and then taught himself how to make a book. He bound the pages with linen thread, and covered it with denim-wrapped cardboard. He used clamps and dowels; he sewed; he glued.
As I read through the entries, I got to re-live all of our adventures from the past year, all of the races and all of the travels and all of the stream-of-consciousness ramblings.
A year in my life. A year in our life together. Printed and bound for posterity. It may not have met Brent’s standards – it was a little lopsided, I guess, a bit rough around the edges – but I thought it was perfect. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
So, with 2009 about to enter the history books, it’s time to start planning for new adventures, new races, new trips, and new stream-of-consciousness ramblings.
2010 is starting to take shape.
There’s the 50-mile ultra in March; a three-day race in New Hampshire in August, which Brent and I will both be doing this year; and three or four weeks in Peru and Ecuador at the beginning of the summer.
I can’t wait to figure out what else is in store.
And I can’t wait for next Christmas, when I get to read volume 2.