I really nailed Christmas for my kids.

They didn’t really ask me for anything because they don’t watch commercials and don’t really have the kind of programming I did as a child. So I thought about what they would want that they didn’t know they want, but the moment they saw it would feel seen and completed.

I got Evie a kids’ DJ set because she’s been going around saying she wants to be a DJ for a year. Her only real experience with DJs was a water bottle that had skunk DJs on it. But I decided to take her seriously. She immediately started laying down tracks. She intuitively just got it and she felt like finally someone was listening to her. Her set comes with an MP3 player and headphones and she records her tracks and goes around listening to them, forcing my friends to listen to them when they come over to the house. She asked me for piano lessons because it has a keyboard and she wants to take things to the next level. DONE.

I got Eli and amazing sewing machine and set him up a sewing station and got him sewing lessons. It’s one thing to tolerate your son wearing dresses. It’s another to regularly take him dress shopping. It’s still another thing to lean so heavily into his sense and love for color and material and pattern that you enable him to create his own.

And for Paul’s birthday in early December, I was similarly epic. I realized we’d never taken a vacation together that wasn’t part of a group thing, a retreat, or a work thing, so I booked us a week in Mexico. 

Little did I know that Paul was hatching an elaborate plan to outdo me.

So there’s this shop on Valencia called Thrive Lounge that has amazing finds from all over the world. I pass it every day on my walk to the Chairman Mom office. And for seven months, I have gained a tiny bit of peace by looking at this amazing Vintage Buddha in the window. I don’t know what it is about it. It was like a spiritual magnet for me. I just felt different when I was in its presence.

I finally got up the courage to go see how much it was. More money than I had but not inconceivably more…Owning it was a remote possibility. I wound up getting a side gig that paid a pretty insane amount for voiceover work, and decided part of the money would go towards my Buddha. I’d done a lot for other people in 2018. This was going to be for me. I was going to put him in my garden that Eli and I had worked so hard on and I was going to meditate out there when it got sunny again. This was all going to happen.

Except Christmas. And the payment I was expecting was late. And I was sprinting through everything right up until the moment I left for the holidays and did nothing that wasn’t absolutely essential.

Paul and I had exactly one day in SF in between Memphis and Mexico. We did a double workout and went to brunch and then I decided to go check in on my Buddha. Maybe I had room on a credit card? Maybe I could split it across two? Make this work somehow?

I breezed by the window in a great mood, relieved to see him from the back and then when I got closer I saw it: A “Sold” sign in his lap with a little heart on it. I was crushed. I sobbed. For a few days. For some irrational reason I just felt it was mine.

I thought for a moment— a brief moment— maybe Paul bought it for me. But no. He’d already given me my Christmas gift and my birthday gift early— a fabulous too-expensive coat. He was as broke as me. Me without the voiceover gig in fact.

I emailed the shop owner hoping maybe the person had buyers remorse or could be talked out of it. She assured me the person as very happy with the purchase. I looked at her Instagram feed: It was bought the day I left town with my kids. I was so angry at myself. I kept picturing my Buddha being in some rich tech a-hole’s bathroom.

Of course you know because of the set up of this post what happened. Paul had gone in just before we left town and bought it (I still don’t know how) and told the woman I would go apesh*t and not to say he’d bought it and that I would likely scream and cry and to hold firm in the face of my negotiating/wrath combo.

She just put a heart on the sold sign instead of her usual practice of writing the person’s name. He couldn’t believe it when I took the one day back to go check on it.

At my birthday dinner in Mexico, just as we got up to leave he said, “Wait, don’t you want your birthday present?”

I was like “You already gave it to me!”

“Well, I got you a little token so you’d have something else on your actual birthday.”

He handed me an envelope with a picture of the Buddha and the note “I love you as much as you love this little guy.” He didn’t know if I would cry or throw a drink in his face, given the days of sobbing after I saw it was sold. I did the former.

I know everyone has different skills in relationships. And some people just are bad gift-givers. We had a Chairman Mom thread last year about men who simply don’t give gifts, and whether or not that was a problem.

It’s less about the actual stuff. It’s about the ability for the right gifts to make you feel seen.

* * * *