She woke up one fine morning and remembered. He was turning 40 in as many days! She wanted to do something super special to make it a birthday to remember. Out came pen and paper as she attempted to list down everything he loved and enjoyed. Oh, he loved that crispy potato curry, such a small thing could bring such joy to his face. She loved that about him. How the simplest of things counted with him. And he loved that actor didn’t he? She made a note to pick up some movies featuring his favourite actor. How about that perfume he kept eyeing in the store, reluctant to pick it up because of the price? And his favourite dessert made by reducing milk patiently on a low flame for hours until it just turned into a pure milk fudge!
Slowly the list grew until she had about 25 items on there. And then inspiration hit… she would gift him 40 things right up to his 40th birthday! To turn the 25 into 40 was a real challenge. After all anyone who has ever bought a gift for a man would agree that it was simply impossible to pick one, let alone 40 items to gift a man. She stretched her imagination to the maximum – useful apps on the AppStore, game credits for his favourite games that he played to unwind, socks, kerchiefs, underwear, vests! Soon she had a plan and a list of 40 items ready!
The first few days he was amused by her attempts. With each passing day, he saw the love, the effort and the creativity behind it all. His curiosity was piqued by the end of week one. The first question out of his mouth when they met at the end of a long working day would be “What’s my gift for the day?”
The logistics she had to pull off to ensure his gift of the day was available to hand to him was in itself a feat. With friends and family supporting her, she succeeded in making it all look very effortless. But he knew the effort behind that parcel that he received at the end of every single day. And it made him cherish those gifts all the more.
He woke up one fine morning and realised he was enjoying the last few days of being in his 30s. Within a few days he would have to answer, “I’m in my forties” if someone asked how old he was. Forties! How and when exactly did this happen!
He underwent a period of introspection never experienced before in his lifetime. He relived every experience good and bad. He thought about each decade of his life. How simple those carefree childhood days were, where joy was unlimited and could be found even in a game of hide and seek between friends. That phase of life called adolescence, where innocence slowly gave way to understanding, maturity, rebellion, acceptance and self-discovery – sometimes all of that at once. No wonder so many teenagers struggled through these years when emotions ran high and mind and body went through some radical transformations.
Life didn’t give anyone time to catch up. He remembered landing his first job, selling credit cards for a bank almost as soon as he was out of his teens. The twenties brought a heightened sense of responsibility. He was officially and finally a man. And he would have to live up to the expectation that came with the title. Be the breadwinner for the family, take care of his parents, get married, have children, and work to leave a legacy behind.
By the time he came out of his twenties, he was married and they were slowly building a life together. They struggled, faltered, fell, stood up – but always together. They laughed, lived, celebrated, rejoiced – but always together.
They stood like the tree that sways with the storm, letting life take them in whatever direction it wanted to go. They followed. He had never expected his marriage to be like this. He never thought he would love like he did, or fight like he did, or laugh like he did. They truly completed each other in every way.
And now he was firmly stepping into the forties. He had never given much thought to age, or life or ambition or achievement. His attitude to life had always been to go with the flow and let life guide you. But now he felt the urge to take some control of where life was going. This whole turning forty on the outside was changing him on the inside too. He wanted to learn more, experience more, enjoy more. And to fit all this into his life, he would let go of many other emotions. He let go of reluctance. He let go of negativity. He let go of hesitation.
She walked in just as he was getting ready for his birthday bash and handed him his grand finale gift. A watch that was a work of art. She strapped it on his wrist, and kissing his forehead reverently she whispered, “I love you just the way you are.” And he knew, this moment in time was the biggest gift. He felt truly grown up as he came to the realisation how insignificant material things were in comparison to what they shared.
He was forty after all. It was time.
She looked thoughtful, brooding even. She knew him well enough to know forty gifts weren’t coming her way this year. But she also knew he would make her birthday special in his own unique way. Four years had passed since his fortieth birthday. And she was turning 40 next month.
Every insecurity that ever existed from the minute she was born came to the fore. Logical thinker that she was, she ran a scorecard in her head.
Society v/s Me – Please Grade from 1 – 10.
1 is the lowest score and 10 the highest in any given category.
She already knew the grades to each one in her head. And imagined the grade society would give her. She would never measure up in “society’s” eyes.
He walked into the room and sensed the atmosphere. He knew without being told what she was feeling. And he knew what he wanted to do. He sat down next to her and took her in his arms. He kissed her forehead reverently and whispered, “I love you just the way you are”.
As she hugged him tight, touched by the gesture and the timing of it, she felt a weight lift. She reached out in her mind for the scorecard and mentally tore it into pieces. Society, opinions, self-appointed judges – none of those mattered. She would be the only person who could pass any judgement on her actions.
She was forty after all. It was time.