From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

A Romantic Hammer

During the story that follows, you will gain insight into an especially romantic evening amidst a very difficult financial time in my life. My husband, our two children and I lived on a very tight, shoestring budget for a number of years. We were in the ministry and our little church could barely afford to pay us as their pastor and family. But out of lack come great things from the heart, things that make memories, things that mold character, things that make strong marriages, things that will never be forgotten. And from this, I tell my story. . . .

As I walked into the room that had earlier been off limits to me, I could see that careful preparation had taken place to assure that our wedding anniversary celebration would be a wonderful surprise. Most of the day had been spent carefully following my husband’s instructions to spend the afternoon outdoors, which in itself made me suspicious. For several months, I had become totally absorbed with juggling our financial situation—so much so that the word “surprise” wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I certainly was not prepared for what I was about to receive. My husband knew that we didn’t have the extra finances for an evening out, so instead he and our two children worked together to create the most romantic anniversary evening right in our very own home.

Standing directly in front of our dining room entrance was my husband who said with a smile, “The evening awaits you, my lady.” My face blushed like a new bride anticipating what was to happen next. My eyes were immediately drawn to the table, which was beautifully covered with a fine linen cloth and my best china dishes. Napkins were neatly folded by each plate, but above one of the plates were several packages wrapped in brown paper. A single source of light came from the center of the table, where a rather large candle was burning. Balloons of varied shapes and sizes danced along the ceiling as if in accompaniment to the beat of the soft music playing in the background. My daughter emerged from the kitchen proudly carrying the cake she had just baked for the celebration while my son stood tall with a strong posture as he wore a white linen towel draped carefully over his arm, as to take on the position of maître d’ for the evening. My husband was dutifully orchestrating all the last-minute details before he pulled out the chair for me as guest of honor at the head of the table. It was obvious that each member knew their assigned duties and had rehearsed them several times for this occasion.

Only a queen could feel this regal, I thought. Glancing at my husband throughout the evening, I could sense romantic overtones to his smile and the way in which he addressed me to the children. This was life at its finest, and I was savoring every moment of it when my son said, “Come on, Mom, it’s time to open your presents!” I could see in their eyes that this was the moment, the unveiling if you will, the frosting on the evening. So I proceeded to unwrap the first gift. It was from my daughter. She had given me a book of coupons on which were written different chores that she would do for me as I had need of them. The second gift was from my son. It was his treasured silver dollar.

Then there was the last gift. It was from my husband. Anticipation loomed across their faces like you would see seconds before a touchdown. At this point, I felt like part of the winning team, and that this box contained a special something just for me. And as I removed the last piece of wrapping paper and opened the tightly closed box, there was a still silence, and then, there it was!

“A hammer?” As they were cheering, I was gasping as I tried to hide my bewildered expression. Was this a joke? Had I missed something? Not knowing what else to do, I gave my husband a quick kiss, hoping this diversion would eliminate any detection of ungratefulness on my part. Gathering my composure, I said to my husband, “How did you know that I wanted my own hammer?” All the time, my son was saying, “Gee, Mom, this is great!”

Sometimes, we cover our disappointments with gratitude, especially when our spouse has that special sparkle in his eyes that speaks loudly of the pride he feels after having purchased the perfect gift. How could I be anything but happy for all they had done for me? But the romance was fading fast! How could I be ungrateful when in all reality we had very little money for anything extra? Yet I had secretly hoped for a bottle of perfume or a renewal on my favorite magazine subscription. Had I forgotten to convey that to my husband over the course of the week before our anniversary? A hammer? What was he thinking? Next it’ll be a tool belt or staple gun. Doesn’t he know that a woman savors the romantic things, especially on her wedding anniversary? And here I was at forty, already feeling my esteem fading with the discovery of new facial wrinkles, graying hair and a thicker waist. I tried to keep in mind that it was the thought that counts, but every time I envisioned that hammer, my heart sank even deeper. How could our thinking be so far apart? My resolve would be to simply misplace the hammer, perhaps in a box under my bed, and never let on of my disappointment.

But there is a moral to the story. . . . My husband was much more discerning than I ever gave him credit for being. I have always been a decorating bug, always changing and rearranging the furnishings in our home. Since then, I have realized that his hammer was a gift that spoke volumes to me of the confidence my husband had placed in me and my abilities to transform the interior of our simple little home into a place of beauty. The hammer was like receiving his stamp of approval. Today I can see the purpose in the gift in a far greater way than I did the day I received it. And I am impressed with the fact that my husband knew me better than I knew myself.

As I look back on that situation, I can laugh and even tell you the story. I’ve also learned an important lesson about prejudging a gift. What I would have chosen for myself at the time would not have benefited me half as much as this gift has. And you know what else? Every time I have used this handy tool throughout the years, I have thought of my husband and the romantic anniversary evening he so lovingly planned for me. It generates a continuous romantic feeling each and every time. So it really was a romantic hammer after all.

Catherine Walker

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