Every year—usually around Black Friday, to get the best deal—I log into VistaPrint.com and upload a bunch of the previous year's family photos and create a calendar for the coming year. They always arrive quickly and look great and I order enough copies that I can use them as gifts for those people on my Christmas list who are particularly hard to buy for. (Let this be fair warning to those who know me and fail to drop overt hints as to what they might like for Christmas.)
Even though I live with her every day, my wife is by far the most difficult puzzle on my Christmas list and so she automatically gets one. The first time I did it, it was unexpectedly well received and so, of course, I now repeat the action every year partially because I learn new tricks so quickly and partially because I am so slow to learn new, new tricks. My wife likes it because it's covered in pictures of her family, but also because she finds it useful for keeping track of all the appointments for her and the kids. Whenever I see it hanging on the wall, dates filled with ink, I smile, reflecting on that rare feeling of having bought a gift that turned out to be appropriate.
I try to find photos from the previous year, representing each month and include as much of the entire family as I can, though the four of us are the main feature. I definitely try to avoid anything morbid but feel that to be representative, I must include some negative things. This year's calendar included a picture from the emergency room after my brother's bicycling accident. It's a head shot of Mike just before getting a huge train track sewn across a wide gash on his left cheek.
I remember when I was taking this picture thinking that his days of being the better-looking brother were over. How good looking is he? Well, a beautiful girl—a complete stranger—once came up to him in a bar, kissed him on the lips and whispered, "I just had to." Where I might have replied something unintelligible weakly followed by, "... call me?" he smiled, said something akin to "I understand," but probably much cooler, then returned to his beer while the rest of us chopped livers watched in stunned silence as she sauntered away in slow motion, long, lustrous hair blowing and backlit. I remember her to this day. He doesn't. Turns out, it wasn't the first time. Nor was it the last.
A few years back, we were in Vegas with a cadre of friends celebrating Mike's 50th birthday. At 50, I assumed that he was past his prime and hanging out with him would be a reasonably safe place for my ego. He and I wanted to see Cirque de Soliel but the tickets were a little more expensive than we'd expected and we hoped to get a deal by waiting until just after the doors closed before purchasing. There wasn't much of a line up which either meant that everyone had pre-booked or that there might be some empty seats. My brother offered to watch the theatre doors and then queue up at the last second. Meanwhile, I nursed a drink in a nearby lounge with Patricia, one of our friends who found herself at loose ends because all of our other friends were busy gambling and she'd literally shot her wad the day before firing machine guns at about 20¢ a bullet.
Patricia: "I paid $100 and stood in line, in the blazing sun, for nearly 2 hours to learn one interesting fact: An Uzi 9mm fires 500 bullets a second."
She was interested in seeing Cirque de Soliel but instead resigned herself to the cost-saving measure of watching TV in her room for a couple of hours until we all regrouped for dinner.
When the doors closed, there was no lineup at the ticket booth. But seconds before my brother stepped up to the booth, a man approached him offering a free ticket. Apparently, he'd been stood up and as the doors were closing, the ticket would otherwise go to waste. My brother hesitantly accepted the gift, then proceeded forward and bought two more tickets for the show at a very-last-minute-discount of 20%—better than we'd hoped. He then re-gifted that free ticket to Patricia.
Only about two-thirds of the seats were occupied but being good Canadians, we all stuck with the seat numbers on our tickets, though that put us quite a distance apart.
If you've never seen Cirque de Soleil I wholeheartedly recommend it, though I can not adequately describe it. All I can say is; forget what you know of circus and theatre and prepare yourself for two hours of a breathtaking, heart-stopping performance during which your only two thoughts will be: "Oh my God! That's absolutely gorgeous!" and "Oh my God! Any second now, someone's going to die!"
No one died.
Afterward, our little threesome reconvened in the lobby and Patricia told us what had happened immediately after she took her seat...
Stranger [in the seat next to her]: "Excuse me, but you're in my seat."
Patricia: "Excuse me? What?"
Stranger: "I purchased that seat for my friend."
Patricia [examining her ticket]: "My ticket shows this number."
Stranger [and stranger]: "Hey! I gave that ticket to a man."
Patricia: "And he gave it to me."
Stranger [clearly agitated]: "Well, it wasn't for you. It was for him!"
After which he Harumpf!-ed loudly, slumped deeply into his seat, arms tightly crossed, and sat making seething sounds, like the fuse of a large firework.
Patricia moved to an empty seat and enjoyed the show.
The free ticket had been part of a very clever—though flawed—pick-up manoeuvre. There's no denying that someone's good looking when their attractiveness is so extreme that it transcends gender!
Meanwhile, back at the calendar: My wife wants the kids to take a multivitamin every day. They do it on their own, but as a check, she asks them to make a mark on the calendar if they have taken their daily dose. Last year, I noticed that between her appointments and the kids' vitamin marks, the day-squares became very crowded. And, one time, I heard her complain that there was not enough space to pencil in a new event.
So, this year, I ordered a much larger calendar. As usual, it was a welcomed gift—for my wife, if not my six-year-old niece. Her own fault, really, for putting "drone" on her Christmas list.
Today, 28 days into the new year, I glanced at the calendar expecting to see some squares neatly filled in with events and appointments. Here is what I saw...
Apparently, the kids assumed the extra space was meant entirely for them. A sound assumption, as most everything else is. The simple act of signing off on their vitamin has escalated into some sort of graffiti war and the entire spaces are now occupied territory.
I immediately ran to tattle to my wife. Sometimes a husband needs attention, too. She said, "It's cute."
I once got reamed out for putting a smiley face in the corner, on her birthday: "It looks constipated. I thought you were mad at me. If you have to scribble, please do it on your own birthday."
Sometimes, Life can be unfair.
So far, this year, my obsessively punctual wife has missed three appointments.
And, sometimes, Life evens things up a bit.
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