Wednesday, December 23, 2015

the label maker: a Christmas story.

Everyone remembers their first Christmas with their significant other. Good or bad, we all remember.

Christmas 2005 was the first Christmas season I spent with James. If you've been paying attention, you'll notice that this was two whole Christmases before we started dating. Indeed: James and I became fast friends when we met on move-in day at UMM in August 2005, and we liked each other well enough that, for Christmas that year, we bought each other twelve-packs of Mountain Dew. (Mountain Dew is totally trashy, I know, but we were teenagers and bonded over our love of it.)

James and I had a blast together during the 2005 Christmas season. We had been recruited as swing dancers for a UMM/Morris community Christmas variety show, so we dressed in our fancy clothes and danced to big band music onstage. 
The following week was finals week, and James and I both had late finals. Almost everyone else had already vacated the dorms, so James and I were two of the few souls left on campus. Instead of wallowing in our dorm rooms, we ate at Don's CafĂ© and went bowling.

That was our first Christmas together.

Christmas 2007 was James's and my first Christmas as a couple. We had begun dating in July, but since we had known each other for more than two years, we had gotten the getting-to-know-you-to-figure-out-what-you-might-like-for-Christmas awkwardness out of the way ages ago.

We were broke-ass college kids, so our gifts were sure to be humble. I don't actually remember what I bought for James, but I scoured the Alexandria Target for something completely wonderful within my price range. I can tell you that I paid careful attention to pretty much everything he said he liked, even if it was in passing - and my Christmas gift to him was mostly comprised of a bag full of small James-approved things that I had filed away over the years. There was a small set of Legos, and a box of Queen Anne cordial cherries. I'm reasonably certain that was the year I bought him a trumpet-shaped pencil sharpener, but don't hold me to that. In any case, the gift was an amalgamation of things like that.

James got me a label maker.

You may be envisioning one of those slick digital label makers with the full keypad that uses thermal ink to print your labels. Not so: this was an old-fashioned label maker, complete with the lettered dial and the hand-punch.

I was a tad speechless.

It had never occurred to me to ask for office supplies for Christmas, nor did I think I would open up a gift to find office supplies waiting inside. When I saw my new label maker, I glanced up to see James looking absolutely pleased with himself. I quickly realized that he must have put a lot of thought into this label maker - he wouldn't have chosen something like that arbitrarily. So I used it to make old-timey labels for my college notebooks, and I used it to embellish the (one and only) scrapbook I (have ever) made - the scrapbook was a gift to James for our first anniversary in July 2008, and he was utterly delighted to see that I had used his label maker.

It wasn't until years later that James found out that the label maker wasn't the perfect gift he had thought it to be. While recounting the story of this first Christmas gift to James's and my families over last year's Thanksgiving dinner, James explained: "I couldn't afford anything nice, and when I saw the label maker, I thought, 'Well, Calla likes words!'"

It's worth noting that this has become one of my absolute favorite Christmas stories, and James has since become a truly excellent gift-giver. And in his defense re: label maker, it really is the thought that counts. And he was right: I do like words.

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