My husband, Nicolas, grew up in El Salvador. His family was anything but normal…his father had 5 “wives” before he was sent “permanently packing” as he sat one night at the dinner table by the real husband of the last lady.
His dad always ended relationships by picking up his constantly-increasing brood of kids and walking away from the woman he’d tired of… not a loving gesture of not wanting to lose his children, but rather a show of machismo. None of his offspring ever recalls a moment of “carino” (caring) from any parent. Never, either, did any have a toy, celebrate a birthday, get a kiss on the cheek, a goodnight story, or a hug… these weren’t even imagined by any of the (eventually) seven children sired by this man and his women.
Needless to say, my husband was not a hopeless romantic when I met him. He wouldn’t even touch me for weeks after we started dating. When I finally overcame embarrassment and asked why, he said he didn’t know how he was supposed to. Then he asked if his big hands would hurt me. I promised to help him learn what was good touching and I gradually taught him to be comfortable with it.
I sneaked a peak at his driver’s license one day and on the day I discovered was his birthday I brought him a small cake and a card. He was thoroughly puzzled, even when I explained the concept of birthdays. He told me he was embarrassed and that I didn’t have to do that again. After all, “What difference does any day make?” he asked.
But my actions did have an influence on him. About two weeks after this, Nicolas arrived at my apartment with a long box. “Este es para ti,” (this is for you) he mumbled as he handed it to me. I was amazed. A PRESENT for me…from this man who had, himself, never received even a head’s up on any holiday in his life. And here it was, not even any special day! I looked at the box and saw that it said “Yard and Kitchen Trash Bags and I chuckled inside thinking, “Well, someday I will have to teach him about wrapping paper!” But eagerly I tore open the box and, shocked, I pulled out a huge roll of Yard and Kitchen Trash Bags!
“Wow!” I exclaimed, “Por que pensaste en comprar estas para mi?” (Why did you think to buy these for me?) He blushed deeply and said, obviously from deep in his heart, “Tu no las tenias.” (You didn’t have any.)
Nicolas and I have been married now 16 1/2 years and I have received five presents from him: a 99 cent bag of cashews, a bag to carry my teacher’s books, a purse, and a silver necklace. None cost more than $20, but each one is priceless, from a man for whom a gift was as alien as kryptonite. “!Ay que romantico es mi amor!”