The Partner and I have something of a contentious marriage. This is no secret. Most of our fights revolve around the fact that The Partner is right and I am wrong. He had me convinced of this dynamic until two days ago.
My epiphany had roots near the mailbox, at the spot where I picked up two packages sitting together in a clear, plastic bag. I looked at the top package to see my name printed on the front. I will admit that I am not totally faultless in this; I did, as I so often do, fail to think my next action through. I just assumed that the two packages were part of one shipment and that both had been directed to me. I opened the first, then the other. One held a hundred Christmas cards of my own design, ready to be served with a salutation and an address label. The other held Arrested Development, the complete series. I didn't scratch my head for long before closing the lid to the box so that I could see it had not, in fact, been addressed to me--though the status of that DVD set on my Christmas wishlist assured me that I was the gift's final destination.
I made it back into the house to tell The Partner of my blunder. I handed him the violated package. "Oops," I said. "I accidentally opened it."
He glared at me. While I did not exactly misread his expression, I did not understand the gravity of it. So I went on. "And, ha, this is funny...I know about the popcorn popper you got me, too. What were you thinking, leaving it right there in the open?"
The next five minutes were a flurry of boxes and bubble wrap as The Partner threw packing material all around the office amidst declarations that he was "giving up!" He was freakishly serious.
"If you didn't want me to find the popcorn popper, why didn't you hide it?" I inquired.
"Why should I have to hide it? You're not a child!"
I just stood there, open mouthed, in apparent dispute of that assertion. I did not even know how to respond. Finally, I summoned the words. "You left the box in the middle of the office right with everyone else's gifts. I went through them to see what had arrived and how much I was going to have to wrap. I assumed you wouldn't leave any of my presents right there where I could find them."
"What about the fact that the popcorn popper box was on its side, facing the wall?"
"What?" I looked at him with more childlike confusion. "It was facing the wall? What the hell is that supposed to indicate? The box's position means nothing to me! It was in a pile with everything else we are giving for Christmas so I OPENED IT!"
But he insisted I was supposed to know that side-lying boxes, even when in plain sight, were verboten boxes. He attempted to make me feel stupid and wrong in the face of his righteous brilliance. But this is where my epiphany arose fully and in all its splendor. I am not stupid and wrong.
Suddenly 11 years of fighting were called into question. His skillful use of logic and argument had, over time, convinced me of the permanent fault line that was a fissure through my body. He was articulate, reasoned and extremely determined. I was uninformed and confused. His very refusal to ever say "I'm sorry" reinforced his steadfast convictions.
Large issues related to money, parenting and sex have always clouded my understanding with their enormity. But this small argument, I could see through. Easily. It was ridiculous.
Yes, I opened two boxes that I shouldn't have. No, I did not do it on purpose. I refuse to take the blame just because he made no attempt to protect his purchases from my scatterbrained ways.
In the end, though, he ended up giving me one of the best gifts I've ever received. I never would've found it if I didn't accidentally stumble upon Arrested Development and an electric popcorn maker two weeks before Christmas. This gift is the serenity I felt as I listened to him yell and swear and throw things. It's the calmness I experienced in the face of blame. For the first time in my life, I felt 100% certain that The Partner was not right.
And if he is not right about this, the skies are alight with the possibilities of what other untold wonders he may be wrong about. My reality shines with the brightness of countless Christmas lights. I hear the Hallelujah Chorus swell around me. I smell Hot Buttered Rum and I taste victory. Whoever said 'tis better to give than receive never got a doozie like this one.
Merry Christmas, everyone!