Now don't get me wrong, I do a lot of generic gifting. There are birthdays and holidays that pass with nothing but tools, DVDs, clothes, and books. These are all perfectly acceptable gifts, even if they are rather generic. I try and make sure that they are something that the person really wants or needs, but generic is sometimes the only option.
There are those bright shining moments though when the perfect gift comes along. Finding a long forgotten childhood memory, a sentimental reminder of happier times, the long sought after final piece of a collection, or just the perfect bit that sums up your relationship perfectly. They are the finds that are heartfelt and bring pure joy to the giver as well as the receiver.
Many years ago, probably about the second year I was married, I found one such gift for the husbeast. When I purchased it I knew it was a cool gift, but I didn't realize how cool it was until I was chatting with some women in my office about what we had gotten our husbands. Several women had bought ties for their husbands, there was at least one tool set which got a good response from the rest of us, and some generic clothes/books/movies sort of fare. Then there was me.
I explained to them that the husbeast's grandfather had been a musician. He was a trumpet player and a big band leader. In fact he had at one time played with Louis Armstrong. The story goes that they were in New York and had a fight over a woman and split the band in half. Louis went to Chicago and formed the New Orleans All Stars and the husbeast's grandfather went back to New Orleans with the girl and formed George Hartman and his Orchestra.
Now the husbeast's grandfather passed away before he was born so he never knew the man and he never heard him play. He did however hear many stories about him from his much beloved grandmother as well as a slew of very famous jazz musicians like Bobby Blue, Fats Domino, and B.B. King. He actually tells a story about Bobby Blue stealing his hand cranked ice cream when he was a child.
Still he never heard his grandfather play.
Well I am an industrious little thing that can use the interwebs to my advantage. After some quick searches I found a copy of one of his grandfathers albums in fairly good condition and I bought it for him. I thought it would make a great gift.
At this point I got the death glare from every woman in my office. Their gifts all suddenly paled in comparison and made them look like inconsiderate spouses. I couldn't help that I was more thoughtful when it came to gifts than they were.
The husbeast loved the record. It was a gift that meant more to him than anything else I could have given him. I gave him a connection to his past that he had never had before. I think he may have cried. There was one small flaw to my plan; we didn't own a turntable. He had no way to listen to this record at all. Still just having it seemed to make him happy, so it was still a win in the gift category. I was the good wife.
For many years now we have been meaning to take the album to a friend of ours so he could transfer the music to a CD so we could listen to it. Of course we have never actually gotten around to it. We will look over at where the record is displayed and make noises about getting that done, and then promptly forget.
Recently I inherited a stereo that had a turn table built into it along with all of my grandmother's record albums. I hooked the thing up a few weeks ago but hadn't bothered to play anything on it. Last night on a lark I decided to test it out. There was an album that was still on it from the last time it had been played, and after a couple of minutes I managed to get it going. The music came out sweet and clear.
Quite suddenly the husbeast jumped up from his painting table and ran for the kitchen. I wasn't really sure what was going on until he came back around the corner clutching his grandfather's record to his chest. Gingerly I took the record and put it on the turn table. I was ever so happy that this thing had an automatic arm as I would be terrified of scratching it.
There was a moment of nothing but static as the album spun round and round as we waited with great anticipation for the music to begin. Then out of the gritty crackling came the strong and vibrant sound of dixieland jazz. His grandfather's horn cut through the room in the sweetest way. It was amazing.
What was truly amazing though was the look on the husbeast's face. He had waited his entire life to hear this music. It was a connection to his past, to a man he never knew, to a woman he adored, to a culture that he is part of at his core. I am not sure if it was a sort of catharsis or just simply bliss, but it was beautiful.
*I just discovered this YouTube selection of his music today. I think it was better though for him to hear it for the first time on the record I got him than on YouTube. But I hope you all enjoy,