Last month my boss decided to start our staff meeting by having everyone tell the best gift they had ever received or had ever given – in honor of Packy the elephant’s upcoming 50th birthday celebration at the zoo.
I immediately thought of the kaleidoscope that Jeff had given to me not long after we started dating around 13 years ago now. It was made of green stained glass welded in the shape of a triangle. At the end was a small tube with glitter-like stuff in clear liquid. The beautiful colors came from flipping it around. I thought it was a nice gift until he explained that he was giving it to me because it symbolized how I made him feel. That’s when I think it became the best gift I have ever received.
For several years, I kept that kaleidoscope front and center on the bookshelf in my little den in two different houses, until one day a couple of years ago I was moving things around and it fell, shattering everywhere. And by the way, I don’t know what kind of liquid is in those things, but it makes a mess! Needless to say, I was pretty bummed that my special gift was no longer. That is, until my next birthday when I opened a small, long white box to find the most beautiful new kaleidoscope inside. Heck, it even had its own little stand! My new kaleidoscope sits on the dresser in our room, in a place of honor along with newborn pictures of Ian and Elena, and another beautiful gift from Jeff – a handcrafted wooden jewelry box that’s as much art as jewelry holder.
Though it may not be the original, I do love my newer kaleidoscope and most of all, I love that every time I look at it – okay, wait, let’s be honest – most times when I look at it – I think about how fortunate I am to have found Jeff. And even more fortunate that on May 4, 2002, he willingly became my partner for life. Or, at least that’s what that little piece of paper from the State of California says.
It’s amazing that 10 years can go by so fast, while at the same time creating so many stories together. Our first years were so much fun – friends and restaurants and nights out and travel. There was our first house in Arlington, Va.
We were so excited after we closed that we spent the first weeks in the basement every night throwing up orange and yellow paint on the walls to brighten it up. Guess what? It worked; they sure were bright!
In 2006, being totally unsure of what we were doing, we willingly surrendered life as we knew it to parenthood when Ian was born pretty much in our backyard at Virginia Hospital Center on January 10.
Later that year we decided a cross-country move was in order, so we packed up our belongings, two cats and 10-month-old and said goodbye to Northern Virginia for Portland, Ore. I mean, we had visited once for a weekend, so why not?…
Six months later a new house came along to go with new jobs for Jeff and myself. It was a lot, and looking back – no wonder that it took us a while to decide if we were up for parenthood x 2. I can now say that luckily we were: our little spitfire Elena joined us on November 30, 2009 and now it’s hard to imagine our family without her. Elena has the special claim to fame of being the only native Oregonian in the Burpo family, which explains why she already seems so attached to her coats/jackets, as well as her slight obsession with seeing my coffee every morning.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said it’s all been peaches and cream in our 10-year journey. There was, after all, what we now simply refer to as the “brownie pan incident,” for example. If I’m ever being a bit stubborn or perhaps a little narrow-minded about something, Jeff only needs to mention “brownie pan” and I’ve got the point. That was early on so there’s been an incident or two since then.
But truth be told – as I grossed everyone out with in my staff meeting that day – the true greatest gift I’ve ever received…besides my kaleidoscope(s)…and, maybe that poem he wrote me on our first anniversary that still makes me tear up when I read it…and, that beautiful necklace he gave me when Ian was born…and, okay, maybe that cute sweater I gave myself the other day…is Jeff as my husband. I may not show it every day (or sometimes every other day), but I’m so grateful to have him as my life partner. There’s rarely a day that he doesn’t make me feel like Elena, Ian and I are the most important people on the planet. He’s thoughtful, caring, funny, nice, and incredibly smart and well-respected by those who know him. Perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t say a word, no matter how many times “Nordstrom” shows up on the monthly AmEx statement.
Ten years in, I’m proud of the partnership we’ve developed, and proud that as seriously as we take our role as parents – our relationship independent of our children is still just as important to us. (I’m hoping that part comes in particularly handy later in life.) Of course, that said, the eve of our anniversary you can find us frolicking at Ian’s school carnival – which is exactly how we had hoped to spend that night, let me tell you. Not long ago there was talk of spending it in Spain, but my “financially-savvy” husband likes to remind me that we bought a house and painted it instead. Whatever. A future weekend celebration is not out of the picture yet, and we do have plans to dine at the most lovely Genoa Saturday evening, which we are so looking for to.
Because I know he’ll read this at some point (he’s required to be an official follower of this blog), I shall take this opportunity to wish him here a very Happy 10th Anniversary! I’m already looking forward to what the next 10 years will bring.