Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Over the past twenty nine years I’ve learned that buying the right anniversary gift can often be as challenging as it is fun. 

In 2006, our twentieth anniversary, I purchased a wonderful bronze sculpture titled “Shadow Play,” which depicts a young girl playfully pointing her right foot at her shadow on the ground. It’s a delightful piece. She’s been standing in front of our living room window for almost ten years now, but she’s never shown any signs of aging. As Rod Taylor once crooned, she’s “forever young.”  Every time I look at her, I’m reminded of the wonderful, child-like delight Nancy takes from being immersed in nature or playing with some of God’s creatures we’ve accumulated over the years, particularly cats.

Our nineteenth anniversary, a year earlier, was quite memorable. I purchased a computerized baby grand piano at Flint Hills Music. With the help of Tim and Kristi Mohn and their team, I developed a foolproof plan that would have the delivery and setup done while I was having a quiet dinner on the town with Nancy. As it often is with the best plans, events conspired against me. It all began when Nancy called me about mid-morning and said that her mother, who lived in Kansas City, had fallen and fractured her pelvis. My plans had to change and none of them worked very well. By the time I picked up Nancy’s developmentally disabled brother in Kansas City, it was late in the afternoon. From that point on, it was like a Chinese fire drill. I nearly got a speeding ticket on the way back to Emporia. The delivery team from Flint Hills Music had to keep going around the block because I wasn’t at home…and yada, yada, yada. Somehow, the piano did get delivered, thanks to intervention of our good friend, Ben Gray.  And it was still a surprise, proof, I think, for the notion that the age of miracles hasn’t passed.

To this day I couldn’t tell you how much I paid for those gifts. Their true value comes from the wonderful memories they evoke.

I recently read that some folks think that antiques are over-priced. Not me! I’ve found that with antiques there’s a lot of value that can’t be measured in financial terms. Last year, for example, we had planned to take a trip to Italy for our anniversary, but travel fatigue set in and we scrapped the idea. I needed an alternative. I went to a local shop and a cloisonné carriage clock caught my eye. I asked about its age and origin. I was told it was 19th century Italian. “A perfect replacement,” I thought. 

A few months ago, we took the clock to get it appraised at the Antiques Roadshow. The clock is actually Chinese, made at the turn of the 20th century.

The clock does have some monetary value, but the story that goes along with it is worth even more.

By the way, Nancy now tells me that I still owe here a trip to Italy. 
This year, we celebrated our 29th. The gift guide indicated furniture would be appropriate. Nancy had told me that she didn’t want anything couldn’t fit into the palms of her hands. I went down to Paper Moon Antiques and looked around. I needed some help and asked John Doan, the owner, if he had any ideas. I mentioned furniture, but didn’t say anything about the gift fitting into the palms of Nancy’s hands. John appeared to get lost in thought for a minute and then suggested, “I’ve got an early 20th century craftsman workbench at home that I got in North Dakota. Its quarter-sawn oak and it’s beautiful.” I was intrigued. A few days later I saw the bench for the first time. It was every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined. I knew I was going to buy it. So did John and his wife, Becky. We did haggle for about twenty seconds, but that was just our way of making friends. I like to think of it as the sociology of the deal.

On the day I gave her the gift, Nancy gently reminded me that it couldn’t fit in the palms of her hands. “I love it,” she said, “but it’s got to go back.”

I went back to Paper Moon and spoke with John. He agreed with Nancy. We worked out a swap, with Nancy coming to Paper Moon with me and choosing the gift herself. A couple of stained glass window panels caught her eye and she fell in love with them. They now grace the dining room of our Prairie Victorian.

The cost of the deal escapes me now. It’s not that important.  Nancy’s delighted with what she has, I have another memory to cherish, and we’ve made some new friends. All in all, it’s a wonderful way to conduct business. 

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