I’ve been married almost 17 years, and I know that my wife is not materialistic. For Christmas, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and birthdays, she doesn’t want much. She’s more into the thought and love behind a gift than the price.
Still, I like to buy her something on special occasions. Something good. Something fun. Sometimes, however, I can’t buy much. Those mischievous Special Occasion Gremlins strike.
One time for Valentine’s Day, my wife and I had sizzling plans that came to a halt because the Special Occasion Gremlins sabotaged our water pipes and diverted water all over our house. One Christmas, those English folkloric imps attacked our cars. It seemed more like Christmas for the mechanic.
For my wife’s birthday this year, it was the water heater, which is really unfortunate because I had the perfect gift idea for her: Tickets for her and my son to see the band U2 in concert (I’m not into concerts myself). With gremlins in the water heater, I was going to have to come up with another idea.
Years ago, we’d cut up our credit cards, so we either have money to do things or we do not.
Let’s see, I thought, how many credit card applications will come in the mail today, and which one will give me what I need to get those concert tickets?
Or maybe I love that my wife’s not materialistic and that I didn’t have to buy her something big.
I found the fake mustache in my Halloween boxes. Then I went into my snow gear and dug out a black cap that the Edge from U2 could easily be seen in. It went real well with the fake facial hair. My 13-year-old son had some glasses like the ones Bono wears. A U2 concert at home for Mom was his idea.
“All we need is a stadium, a huge crowd and some talent,” the kid said to me.
I told him that stuff would work itself out, that what we really needed were instruments. I built a drum set out of trashcans, boxes and tinker toy sticks we still had from my son’s old toy box in the garage, and we turned a broom into a guitar and old telephone headsets into our microphones.
While we worked out other details, I struggled to think of something small to get my wife so she’d have an actual gift to open on her birthday. I needed something more inexpensive than I thought (water heaters are expensive!), but something she’d love. I got it: Pencils, paper, rulers and other similar supplies. You see, my wife’s a teacher, and her favorite time of year is when school supplies hit the shelves in stores.
With a gift all set, I checked in with my son. He created a jumbotron video for the concert, though, on our TV in our living room, it was more like a not-so-jumbo-tron. Next, we made an audio track of a crowd cheering that we could loop through our performance, tested it, and it sounded like we were there.
Now we just needed the people. We found video of a concert crowd and projected it on the walls. We also set up lights around the room and had them plugged into various power strips at our feet so we could turn them on and off by stepping on the switches in sync with the music.
“At some point,” my son said, “we’re gonna have to practice the songs.”
“Oh, that’s right,” I responded. “I just realized how much I hate singing and dancing.”
We kept moving forward, and a day before the event, my father-in-law called and asked what we were doing for the upcoming special occasion. I explained the whole U2 performance.
“Oh,” he said, “I got her tickets to the real thing.”
I wish I would’ve known he was teaming up with the Special Occasion Gremlins. I would’ve applied for those credit cards and done something real special. And to think all I had for my wife’s birthday (my wife of almost 17 years) was a stupid box stupid school supplies.
“It’s the thought and love behind the gift that counts,” my son said. “The show must go on.”
The big day finally arrived, and when my wife opened the school supplies, she actually shed a tear. It wasn’t for how pathetic the gift was, but because she actually had visions of education ecstasy. Then when she discovered she was at a U2 concert in our living room, her eyes became Niagara Falls.
Right on cue, those Special Occasion Gremlins got into the act. They messed with our lights, our video and our sound. They attacked our performance, which we never really did practice. Regardless, my wife sang along, cried, laughed (at us and with us) and got a backstage pass to take pictures with the band.
To ruin it all was Grandpa at the end of the show with his real tickets to see the real U2. My wife and son enjoyed the concert a couple weeks later. When they returned, my wife said they loved it, but assured my son and me it wasn’t as special as our concert. That’s right, we were better than U2!
“Dad,” my son told me later, “she was just saying that. The real thing was waaaaay better!”
This story was written for The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA. You can find other stories like it from Michael Picarella in his book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at MichaelPicarellaColumn.com.