Jon built an owl box–for me, he claimed–and was so upset that I wasn’t more excited about it that he refused to show it to me for about a week.
Why is a gift sometimes so hard to recognize? It’s easy when it comes in a box with a bow, when it comes sincerely delivered from hand-to-hand, but more often than not, that doesn’t seem to be the way we do things in our house.
I’m not an over-the-top gift giver. I prefer little things that show I’ve been thinking about Jon through the day or while away on vacation.
After a long weekend in New York, I brought back a toy cap that sprung up into the air once dropped onto the ground. The only part of it that had anything to do with New York was the city name printed on its belly. I knew when I saw it in the store that of all the things I could bring back for Jon, that toy cap would be the most used and appreciated.
Of course, he stomped around and complained, transparent complaints. Everyone, all our friends, knew it was perfect for him. It sits on our kitchen counter. He flips it every day.
Other times I’ll bring home a box of Nerds or chocolate covered cashews and leave it for him to find, or hide a never-before-seen wallet-sized photograph of us in his briefcase before he travels for business. Last night, I put a small jar of expensive face cream on the bathroom sink because he’s been complaining of dry skin.
Are these gifts? I like to think so. I put thought into them.
It’s hard to buy anything for a man with enough money to buy himself whatever he wants, so I have to look instead for the blind spots of what he needs, or what I hope he needs.
I guess, underneath it all, I just hope he needs me, so perhaps the gifts are narcissistic.
Jon is not a gift-giver. I can count only a few times when he’s given gifts that I’ve registered as presents selected specifically for me. I know if you asked him, he would protest this claim. He’d count everything he provides–shelter, food, leisure–as gifts. In that sense, those are certainly things to be grateful for and that I ought to express gratitude for more often than I do. I don’t know why I don’t. It’s hard to find recognition in the everyday ordinary of our lives, I guess, but that’s no excuse.
But back to the owl box: the trouble started nearly a year ago, when we were traveling and got stuck with one channel–PBS–on television. This is no problem to me. I used to work for public broadcast, and I love NPR so much that I would seriously consider donating my car to them once it’s done. But Jon likes Fox News and The Wall Street Journal and subscribes to NRA magazine, so having to spend an evening watching PBS didn’t enthuse him.
And then a program came on about owl boxes, which neither of us had heard of before.
But apparently you can set an owl box up high in a tree and a family will move in. There are certain species that need seclusion, but others, like ordinary barn owls (whatever they are) or screech owls (are they the same?) that do not.
So a few weeks ago Jon built an owl box, and on a warm Sunday afternoon, we put it up.
Well, he put it up and I watched. Now all we have to do is wait for a family to move in.
I’ve always thought of owls as mysterious creatures that rarely reveal themselves, heard but not seen.
When I first started seeing Jon, we went out into the woods at night, turned off the vehicle lights and engine, and called an owl in with one of those animal calls. Through night vision goggles, I watched it swoop through the dark branches, change its mind, and silently veer away.
But a few days ago at dusk, I was walking on the farm by myself, calling for one of my pets. Every time I shouted her name, a bird hooted from the woods. I called and it answered, over and over again, until I called one final time and, like so many things, was met with only the sound my own voice echoing through the valley before returning to myself.