Five years ago today, I had just bought an indigo dress and borrowed black flats from one of the girls down the hall. He'd said to bring "easy to remove shoes," and I had no idea what to make of that. Cross-legged and barefooted, we chatted for hours in the soft romantic light of the Japanese restaurant in downtown Oakland, his warm smile tinged with slight nervousness. After watching me try to awkwardly eat a massive vegetable roll in one bite, to my surprise he asked me out for a second date. Later that evening, he drove me home with the first two gifts he ever gave me: a bottle of red wine and a CD he mixed for me with a little cat face drawn on it. I was smitten with this courteous, thoughtful man immediately. And since then, I've been the lucky recipient of countless gifts from Dain.
The first year of our relationship was peppered with long periods apart from each other. When I went back to Dallas to work for the summer, I came home to a white envelope with my name in his familiar slanted scrawl. With the most passionate and poetic declaration of his feelings, Dain had started what would be a lengthy exchange of love letters throughout the summer. I remember being so moved by his words and simultaneously impressed by his ability to be so vulnerably open with me. Thousands of miles away, without even hearing his voice, I was learning so much about Dain and what I was learning was that there was a lot more to this relationship than dinner dates. I hardly got to the end of the letter before I started on my own response; I was so inspired to reciprocate his feelings (hopefully) as articulately as he had.
Then came time for me to study in Paris for five months, a challenge for our young relationship but we both bore the burden of a few months apart in lieu of the rest of our lives apart. As I walked the snowy streets of the Marais I didn't expect to experience such heartache but I suppose that's what happens when your heart is stretched and strained across nine time zones. Attempting to catch each other awake to talk was difficult but slowly the countdown on my phone, overlaid with a picture of Dain in a suit, ticked down closer and closer to zero as his visit approached. I was expecting to show him around my new city and play tour guide, but from his laptop in California Dain had managed to surprise me with reservations at an old restaurant on Ile Saint Louis. We spent hours drinking Bordeaux wine and eating way too much delicious French food. Right before dessert, with the guitar player strumming away behind us, he leaned over with a little box and whispered, "happy anniversary." My heart just about exploded. It might have been the classic yet unique onyx necklace newly around my neck, or maybe the wine, or the thrill of seeing my loving boyfriend, or the excitement of a surprise date night in Paris. But I think what really drew me in that night was that he not only remembered the anniversary of our first date but wanted to do something special to celebrate it. And planning a two-week French vacation just to be with me on March twentieth isn't just special; it's the stuff of Hollywood classics.
Dain remembers everything we've ever done- our first zoo visit, the day we first kissed, the last day he ever willing went to yoga with me. My heart swells with the thought of him treasuring not just the big moments but the little ones too. Dain turns otherwise mundane Tuesdays and Fridays into mini-anniversaries of our life together. Showing me how much I mean to him in these little ways is like adding fifty more Christmases to our calendar.
So much life has passed since then. The love letters exist only in a memory box, the exotic date nights have given way to a lot more nights cooking together at home, and he sees me in his shirts that I use for pajamas more than he sees me in indigo dresses and onyx necklaces. Dain has really lavished me with presents from pearl jewelry (my birthstone)to weekend getaways to Yosemite, Monterrey, and Hawaii. I treasure these moments we get to share together and they hold a gold-plated, rose-colored place in my soul.
But there are less obvious gifts Dain gives me all the time, some I doubt he even register he's bestowing upon me. He's the steady hand I need when the mountain is too steep to climb down, the calm reassurance when I call him in a panic. There have been countless cups of coffee and perfectly flipped omelettes on Saturday mornings and matching Giant's hats encouraging us to go to more games together. The black and white portrait he drew of us on the night I told him I loved him, sent across the Atlantic as the most precious parcel four our first Valentine's Day together. The toothbrush he readily gave me so quickly after our first date so I would feel more welcome in his home. When he hold me he unequivocally needed me, I realized for the first time that it would be okay for me to need someone, him, too. He brought Stella into our apartment, which became a home and us a little family.
Dain, the best gift you've given me is the life we've build together over the past five years. Let's start working on a sixth.
Love you to pieces,