By Stephanie Cavanaugh
I AM NOT thinking flowery thoughts, and that’s the last garden-related thing I shall say today.
Instead, I am panicking, again, over what to buy My Prince for Christmas. He doesn’t read books (though he does read the New York Times book review, so it may seem as though he does). My beloved hates games and puzzles, aftershave and other “girly” items, anything computer related, and has no hobbies besides minding my business and sweeping the sidewalk. Every day. Sometimes at night. Sweep, sweep, sweep.
I recall, years ago, being on vacation at some tropical all-inclusive with Baby and the Prince. She and I, well-beached and roasting, sipping piña coladas and dipping chips into a vat of guacamole, gazing tipsy-eyed at the ocean—this may have been Mexico, come to think of it—when what to our wondering eyes did appear, but a figure in a Speedo as blue as his eyes making his way along the coastline on a paddleboard.
“Look! Daddy’s sweeping the ocean!” Baby said. Or maybe it was me. We’re similarly disrespectful, or so we’re told.
Sweeping is his meditation and his primary exercise. One year I bought him a broom, painted it black and printed in gold letters:
Chim chim cher-ee!
A sweep is as lucky
As lucky can be.*
He didn’t much like it, though he used it, because waste not want not—or some such.
If I buy something for the house, he’ll accuse me of getting it for myself, which is probably true.
There were classes. Flamenco, yoga, acting, cooking. Don’t ask.
A few weeks ago, I asked him to give me a list of 100 things he’d like to have—in his lifetime—get wild, I said: trips, cars, houses, wines, a truffle-sniffing pig . . .
He mulled and at last said: another back brush—for the downstairs bathroom.
He went on to describe how it had to be a particular sort that won’t fall apart and some essential attributes that I slept through.
Clothes? Oh . . . thanks mostly to me, is this man ever dapper. His closet is overstuffed with trousers and jackets and sweaters in cashmere and wool and leather. His ties fill a bureau drawer. He has cufflinks and gloves and scarves and socks, coats and jackets, and some of the coolest sneakers I’ve ever seen. Gray flannel? I mean, puleeze.
And since, during these plague years, we don’t have much cause to dress up, it’s a pristine collection.
It’s so nice, in fact, that I might shop it: go into the closet and pick a jacket and pants, a sweater, tie and shoes, wrap them up and stick them under the tree. I wonder if he’ll remember that he already owns them.
And with his birthday less than a month after Christmas, if it works, I may try it again.
*Chimney sweep song from “Mary Poppins.”