"a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience."
This was my first Christmas with David. David is Jewish, although as a small child his family did put up a tree and there were presents. However, when he was 6 the course of his life was changed forever (or, as he puts it, "the shit hit the fan".) After that, there was no more Christmas tree and there certainly was no Santa; there could be no more allusions of any sort of fantasy. As an adult, he and his previous wife didn't celebrate Christmas or exchange gifts either.
Now, if you know me, you know that I LOVE Christmas. I love the tree, I love the lights, I love the decorations, and I love finding or making really special presents for the people in my life. And, well, I like it when they reciprocate. David let it be known early on that he absolutely, positively DID NOT WANT ANYTHING FOR CHRISTMAS because there is nothing he needs or wants. At some point in the past few weeks it became clear that I shouldn't be expecting anything under the tree, either. Not only is he Jewish, he is very anti-consumerism. He was irritated by all the obnoxious advertising on tv and in the newspaper, he wasn't too sure about the large dead tree in our living room, and he definately could do without the Charlie Brown Christmas music I insisted on playing constantly. Now, lest you begin to think he's a total scrooge, let it be known that this man has the biggest, most generous, loving heart of anyone I've ever known. This summer he insisted I let him buy me a new bike. I struggled with what to get: a mountain bike that I could actually exercise on, or the totally impractical yet unbelievably adorable cruiser I'd fallen in love with. I got the mountain bike. And then a month later, he surprised me with the cruiser because he said I just belonged on that bike. He LOVES to give to the people he loves, just not when it's "expected" or mandated by some holiday based on a religion in which neither of us believe. But...but...it's CHRISTMAS. I enjoyed Christmas more this year than I have in YEARS, because I am happier than I have ever been in my life. My contentment has allowed my creativity to explode, and in the months leading up to Christmas, I spent hours and hours crafting and sewing Christmas presents. I actually enjoyed going out into the world and shopping for wrapping paper and bows and ribbons and ornaments. I hummed Christmas music. I BAKED 4 DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHRISTMAS COOKIES TO DELIVER TO THE NEIGHBORS. I had Christmas spirit oozing out of my pores this year for crying out loud!! And to be honest, it bothered me that David wasn't as into it as I was. How could he not be? And then to add insult to injury, he wasn't even going to get me a present?? After all, if he loved me, how could he not buy me something to prove it at Christmas?
Now here's the crazy thing about this relationship: when something is bothering one of us, we TALK about it. I know, weird, huh? So we were laying in bed one night discussing that it hurt my feelings a bit that he didn't want to exchange Christmas presents. As always, he carefully and considerately explained his point of view (that we shouldn't buy presents for someone just because it's expected; that it is in fact much more fun to do it when it's not expected.) As I lay next to the man I love, listening to him so eloquently explain his feelings (because it is very important to him that we always communicate and that there are no misunderstandings), I had an epiphany: in the past (my first marriage and other relationships) I treated Christmas as an opportunity for my partner to prove to me that he valued and understood me, preferably in the form of a large, nice, expensive box (or six) under the tree. But here's the thing: unlike ANY of my past relationships, David makes sure that I know, every single day, that I am loved and valued. He tells me every day that I am the love of his life. He tells both Anna and I that we are the best things that ever happened to him. He tells us both how happy he is that we are part of his life. He calls us his "two sun-shines" and is so generous with his heart and his affection (not to even mention that he has made HIS home OUR home). He listens to me and he actually ACTS on the things that matter to me (like keeping the kitchen clean) because he wants me to be happy. And I realized - fully understood for the first time - that I don't need "things" to know that I am valued.
All I need is LOVE.
And I've got that.