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Writer Wednesday: Have bag, will travel

March 4, 2015

My husband is an awesome gift giver. Over 38 years of marriage, he has frequently surprised me with gifts that have not only delighted me, but served me year after year. We aren’t jewelry kind of people so it is not diamonds and pearls I’m celebrating today. He got me one diamond; that was enough (and more than I wanted—not growing up in a tradition of diamonds). But he grew up that way. Before we got engaged and I argued against an engagement ring (most of my Mennonite engaged/married friends at the time did not have them), he countered, “I always imagined my wife with a diamond on her finger.” So that was that. He has gotten me maybe one or two necklaces that I expressed an interest in, but I’m the world’s best (or worst) necklace loser, so he has wisely steered clear of other jewelry. No, he gets me what men are not supposed to get their sweethearts: I should have seen it coming when, on my birthday right after we got engaged, he began buying me kitchen appliances: a blender (the only one I still use); a marvelous Sunbeam mixer for our first Christmas (which my daughter still happily uses); a surprise washing machine when we moved to our first home could not have been more appreciated; the following year, he got a dryer for us (not such a surprise, but just as welcome). One year he even purchased a battery powered weed eater for Mother’s Day. I’m serious. It was what I wanted, so I could trim where and when I wanted. (He still has and uses his bigger gas powered weed eater for the bigger stuff and places.) This past Sunday a friend at church asked me where I got my beautiful fuchsia winter coat and I was pleased to reply that my husband got it for me (L.L. Bean): a down coat that I knew was pricey, but it was his attempt to keep me warm since I (like the woman who asked me) am frequently cold. Stuart doesn’t steer clear of getting me clothes, but usually takes along a daughter for help, or corners a sales woman, or finds something on a mannequin he likes and then has a clerk help him find the outfit. Score Stuart!

But two of the gifts that meant the most to me over the years were briefcases. The first one is long gone (and I’m sorry I don’t even have a picture of it), but I’m still toting the second one. I think he hopes it will last me until retirement.


Oh the tales it could tell. Oh the places it has gone! You think the deep crevices of a woman’s pocketbook are a scary place you don’t want to visit? You don’t want to dig too deeply into my briefcase!


The briefcases have meant a lot because, you see, I’m a traveler at heart. A real wanderlust. I take after my mother. In addition to family travels and trips as a couple, I have loved traveling on business for the organization I’ve worked for. I always came back with a zillion ideas to write about, absorbed from the talks I’ve heard, the people I’ve met, the new scenery. People are the same no matter where you go, but also so delightfully different! It has been a lifeblood for a “new vistas” craving writer. Unfortunately, shrinking budgets and more video conferencing have greatly cut down on my current business travel.

While Stuart would much rather have me at home, he has always been so supportive of everything I’ve been able to do that when he got me my first briefcase while our children were still quite small and business trips were few and far between, it was an indicator to me that he believed in me and my future. The briefcase said to me: “Honey, I know you love to travel and even though you are pretty much tied to babies and preschoolers right now, here is something you might use in the future.” I felt like it was his blessing on my aspirations. I have a most unusual souvenir, too, on the bottom of my current briefcase. It is looking very worn, very road weary. briefcase4 My briefcase decoration is a string of sticky letters originally meant to be put on our minivan after a friend did some great bodywork for us. They languished on a desk for a long time and I must have put my briefcase on top of them and without my realizing it, the gum on the strip of letters attached itself to the leather. briefcase2 I’m still waiting for some TSA worker to question the meaning of my secret message: D.O.D.G.E. Of course that’s not really funny. Actually these days if I have the chance to travel, I usually carry much lighter cloth bags with just the papers or folders I need for that particular trip. You wouldn’t likely suspect my down-home-Virginia-born-husband who is into tractors, engines, welding, woodworking and all things traditionally “guy,” to have such an eye and heart for what might please his wife. Now you know. You could say at heart D.O.D.G.E stands for Dear Old Dad Goes Emotional. My husband, like my old bag, is a keeper.

Traveling with children on a business trip.An early business trip with the family for a Sunday speaking gig.

  1. A husband who supplies power tools, including just-right briefcases for his wife. Yes, I’d say he’s a keeper. I like your translation of DODGE, very clever.

    • Marian, you add a nice twist on “power” tools–a briefcase indeed has become a symbol of power, especially for moms, right? Nice.

  2. I laughed at your description of the crevices of a woman’s purse. Have you ever tried to find something in your purse while you’re driving? Without looking, of course. Exasperating!!

    Our children just love the story of Dick giving me a sewing machine for our engagement. Definitely no diamond rings in our circles!

    In 2008 I gave him an iron for Christmas. My iron had quit working and I bought a cheap one. At the time he was interviewing for a job and and often needed to iron a shirt. He constantly complained about the iron. Since the iron didn’t bother me that much, but apparently bothered him a lot, I bought a good one and gave it to him for Christmas. We all got a good laugh out of that.

    • A great story about the iron you gave your husband! Thanks. And yes, I’ve tried finding things–especially a cell phone, but not a good practice, as we all know! You know, I think I remember Mary Ellen telling me about the sewing machine for engagement. Hope chests were also popular at one time. No diamonds. 🙂

      Glad you got a laugh.

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