On Christmas morning, my husband handed me a wrapped package and said the dreaded phrase, “You’re either going to love or hate this.” I smiled with a slightly raised brow, ready to be either really excited or not at all.
As I pondered the question of why buy someone a gift you are 50 percent sure they will not like, I removed the wrapping paper and saw “BREAD BOX” printed on the cardboard inside. I shot him a puzzled glance.
“Ohh, a bread box,” I said, doing my best to sound pleasantly surprised.
The surprise was certainly genuine. A bread box was definitely not on my Christmas wish list, nor was it something I would have ever thought to ask for or buy for myself.
I don’t make bread or buy fancy bread, and to be honest, I’ve never been entirely sure what the point of a bread box is.
Picking up on my confusion, my husband let out a short laugh, grabbed the box, and said, “Just let me put it together.” He disappeared into the kitchen, and I turned my attention back to our boys as they excitedly played with new toys. A bit later, my husband yelled from the kitchen, “OK, come and check it out!”
I walked into our kitchen to find the cute bamboo box tucked neatly under the cabinets, on the counter beside the cereal, in the place that formerly served as a haphazard holding area for bread and bread-like items—English muffins, tortillas, pitas.
It was prettier than I had expected with two levels and a glass front, a nice magnetic closure, and even a small drawer at the bottom. (I have no idea what you are supposed to put in there, but rest assured, I will find something.)
Our carb collection was already neatly placed inside and the counter was clear.
“Wow,” I said slowly. “It’s really pretty. And kind of perfect.”
I was now more confused than ever. Until that moment, I had no idea I needed a bread box, but I did–not having bread products spread all over the counter was an immediate upgrade. So how in the world did my husband, who spends very little time in the kitchen, come up with this totally random yet spot-on gift idea?
As an admitted clutterer, I can live with things like bags of bread and tortillas on the counter, mountains of paper on my desk, or toys all over the playroom. But when those things get cleaned up and put in their home, or a new home is created for them, I find it calming and satisfying in a powerful way—a way that makes me realize maybe I’m really not so OK with the clutter after all.
And it seems to be my husband is the one most aware of this complex part of my psyche.
He is the one who helps me find systems for organizing my desk, the toys, and now even the bread. I usually whine a bit along the way, swearing I know where everything is so it’s FINE as it is. But in the end, things are almost always made better. (My cluttered email inbox appears to be insurmountable, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to help there, too.)
It’s never perfect, of course. I warned him right away that I will likely often forget to put the bread back, seemingly oblivious to the fact it now has a perfect home. And sure enough, I have already forgotten several times, absentmindedly placing it on the counter directly in front of the bread box. Each time, he picks it up and makes a show of opening the bread box and proudly placing it inside. Don’t worry, I’ll get there.
There are times in the past when I would have rolled my eyes and gagged at the phrase “he knows me better than I know myself.”
But as the newness of marriage wears off and the challenges of middle age creep in, that kind of connection can be make or break for long-term relationship success.
I know a bread box doesn’t sound particularly exciting or romantic. It’s not. But a partner who pays attention to how you think and feel, one who understands things about you that you might not even fully understand or acknowledge, is about as romantic as it gets.
So if you find someone who buys you perfect gifts you didn’t know you needed, consider yourself lucky, even if one of those gifts is as boring as a bread box.