“Coat hangers!” I hugged the half-unwrapped gift tightly as my daughters faces went from incredulous looks to hysterical laughter. We laughed until we cried.
“Mom, I can’t believe you,” the oldest rolled her eyes, snapped a picture, and fell back laughing again. “Coat hangers? Really?”
“You just don’t know,” I said. “I’ve needed these for so long. I’m so happy.”
Kent just sat there with a grin on his face.
After almost thirty-nine years of marriage, getting coat hangers as a Christmas gift from their spouse might cause issues for some people, but the truth is that for me they were Kent’s way of saying, “I see you. I know you. I love you and I appreciate you.” They were his way of letting me know that he really does listen to me. He really does try to come up with gifts that mean something to me. He really does try to come up with gifts that will make me smile, no matter how ridiculous they might appear to anyone else and I love the fact that we can laugh at ourselves—an essential ingredient in a good life and a good marriage.
When we first got married, Kent’s grandmother gave us about twenty-five good strong metal coat hangers that she’d covered with nylon potholder loops. They were soft and cushioned enough to hang delicate sweaters on and they didn’t rust or have rough edges that might snag threads in whatever was hanging on them. They were great. We actually still have about ten of them.
As these hangers have broken, bent, or rusted, I’ve tried to buy replacements, but they just don’t make ‘em like they used to and the flimsy plastic-coated ones I’ve found won’t hold up anything more than a lightweight shirt. The large plastic ones don’t last long around here either. So, hangers are the bane of laundry day for me.
I tend to make do with what we have and for several years, as far as hangers go, we haven’t had much. It’s a constant frustration, one of those things that I know I could remedy if I’d just go look for the good ones, but that’s just one more out-of-the-way errand that I haven’t taken the time to do, thus my constant frustration with flimsy broken hangers.
Have you ever found yourself shaking your head over your kid’s refusal to just do the right thing? Have you ever watched them do the same wrong thing over and over, never getting the result they want, when you know if they’d just do what you told them to do in the first place it would work first time? Like me and my coat hangers, I guess we all have a little bit of stubbornness in us, a little bit of “gonna do it my way,” a little bit of quiet rebellion.
Here I am waxing philosophical over coat hangers, but it really is a great lesson for me. If I had just listened to Kent years ago and gone out and bought myself some hangers at the dry cleaners, I’d have saved myself so much frustration.
Good relationships are about noticing the little things, caring about the little things, doing the little things. The simple everyday acts of service for another person are what make marriages, any relationship actually, strong. When we give of ourselves, truly invest in our spouse, really notice what makes our mate smile, we deepen the bond that holds us together, we make our life together sweeter. We make marriage really fun and not just a mutual arrangement to raise the kids and pay the bills.
Kent’s gift was thoughtful, needed, and just plain fun. We had a good laugh at my expense and the laughter was the best part of the gift. Our family laughing together is one of my favorite things, and moments like this are the best part of being together.
Good coat hangers might not be your idea of a fun Christmas gift, but to me they were perfect. I loved the hangers. I loved the fact that my family knows that little things matter. I love the fact that Kent cared enough to realize they really would make me smile as I go about my daily tasks. He gave me other gifts too, and I appreciated each of them, but the coat hangers were my favorite. He saved them for last and they made me laugh until tears ran down my face. He put some thought into buying them and they will continue to remind me that it’s truly the thought behind the gift that makes all the difference.
May your 2023 be full of family, friends, laughter, and love.