Suzanne Brown stared at the calendar hanging on the den wall, the colors of the featured Monet painting sifting together as tears filled her eyes. Time would continue to move forward no matter how long she stared, willing it to rewind. She had to accept that midnight had passed, and it was now October 20th.
And she had to accept that she had failed.
Suzanne hung her head, sobbing as the tears muted the hand-written paper laying on her desk. How could she, a seasoned writer, have been so utterly unable to translate her heart? Now it was too late. Today was Brian’s fortieth birthday, and she had nothing to give him.
The idea to write something for Brian had been partly born from his gentle teasing. “How come you write stuff for all those magazines, and you’ve never written anything for little old me?” he would ask. She had been tenaciously searching for a special gift to give him, something to show how much she loved him, and suddenly two weeks ago she realized that the answer wasn’t in the store or on the internet-- it was as intimate as her pen and paper and God-given ability.
Suzanne was overjoyed. She would write something for Brian, beautifully weaving her love and respect into a masterpiece that would perfectly reflect how much he meant to her. After finishing all of her other projects, Suzanne had ten days to concentrate solely on her tribute to Brian-- more than enough time.
She had planned to work, as she usually did, after the children were in bed, a time when she could hear the whispers of God in the hush of the night. But after five days, Suzanne had nothing but a white trash bag filled with partially written pieces, none of which fully conveyed her love.
Suzanne became frantic. She began writing in the spare moments between laundry, meals, and children’s activities. She continued working at night, avoiding Brian’s questioning gaze as she once again retreated to the den and closed the door. And as time waned, the white bag, which she kept carefully hidden from Brian, continued to fill.
Now, ten days and a hundred crumpled papers after she had started, Suzanne cried in the midnight stillness. Brian, the love of her life, a man so full of passion, integrity, and tenderness, would not get a present from his wife today. How would she ever explain her failure?
Brian awoke fitfully from a dream and glanced at the clock. It was two o’clock in the morning, and Suzanne still wasn’t in bed. He made his way through the dark house to the den and quietly knocked at the door. When Suzanne didn’t answer, he opened the door and walked into the room.
Suzanne was asleep at the desk, her head cradled in her arms. Beside her was a white bag filled with paper. Normally, Brian was careful not to read something Suzanne had written without asking her permission, but last night Suzanne had told him that she was working on a special project, and that he could read it in the morning. Hesitating for a moment, Brian reached into the bag, smoothed out the wrinkles in the paper, and began reading.
For the next few hours, Brian sat on the floor pouring over the contents of the bag. His heart quickened as he read paper after paper, each one displaying a piece of the profound love Suzanne had for him. He knew she loved him, but he hadn’t realized the depth of her love, or how she clung to him, cherished him, prayed for him. In their wonderfully busy world of jobs and church and children and sports, he, Brian, was the blessing that Suzanne thanked God for the most.
Brian stood and looked at Suzanne, this woman who had bared her soul and revealed to him the special place he occupied there. He reached out and stroked her hair, gently awaking his sleeping wife.
As comprehension slowly dawned on her, Suzanne’s eyes filled with tears. She threw her arms around Brian, telling him between heart-wrenching sobs how miserably she had failed, and that his present this year was a trash bag full of crinkled paper.
Brain held her tightly, smiling as he thought about his unusual and wonderful birthday gift.
He wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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