The birthday gift | January 25, 2023

It’s my birthday on January 29; and a month or so ago Kyle told me he was busy organizing my gift, “which would be a surprise.”  This was an unnecessary statement, as 100% of my presents from my husband are 100% a surprise.

I know a woman whose husband gives her the exact same present every year: two nights alone at the hotel of her choosing so she can read magazines, catch up on shows, go shopping, and do whatever it is she wants to do in this world without anyone bothering her.  I know another woman who not only sends her husband a link to the gift she wants, if he has too many questions related to the purchase she just goes online and buys it herself.  My husband, on the other hand, spends the 364 days leading up to my birthday listening for things that I like (hint: everything) and things that annoy me (hint: everything), and then either gets me something related to one of those factors or goes totally rogue and picks something out of thin air.  For example, on more than one occasion I’ve been awakened by my sister or my best friend walking in the door after a red-eye flight.  Another time he gave me a t-shirt.  The only commonalities between my birthday gifts is 1) they are always thoughtful, and 2) I never know what’s going to show up.

Here’s a fun fact: I don’t like surprises.  Or, rather, I don’t like being surprised because I’m an ungrateful grump.  So, I’ve had to implement a few rules: If I’m going on a trip, I get to pack for myself.  If I’m participating in an activity or event, I have to have access to a car.  If I’m going to be in a situation where I’m expected to speak intelligently on the musical catalogue of a former-boy-bander-turned-solo-artist, then that boy bander better be Justin Timberlake because I don’t know anyone else.  And if the surprise involves other people, everyone – including Justin Timberlake – needs to be fully briefed on the entire plan.  Beyond that, I’ve learned to just go with the flow because I know whatever it is, I’m gonna like it.

Anyway, when Kyle told me my birthday gift was a surprise and then didn’t offer any other details like, “What’s your understanding of Joey Fatone’s recent activity,” I immediately put it out of my head.

A couple weeks later, Kyle and I were brushing our teeth before bed when he said VERY NONCHALANTLY,

“Oh, hey, I turned on the outlet in the toilet room.”

And so I said,

“What outlet in the toilet room?”

We have a little closet-type thing in our bathroom with just a toilet and a toilet paper dispenser in it.  Kyle pulled me over by my toothbrushing arm and pointed to a plug-in directly below the toilet paper dispenser.  A small light on it glowed green.

“Okay,” I said, a bit confused because I didn’t remember an outlet in the toilet room…but it also wasn’t like I was looking for one because who needs an outlet while you’re on the toilet?

“Has that always been there?”  I asked.

“Yep,” Kyle said.

I went back to brushing my teeth.

“Yeah, so I turned it on,” Kyle said.  “Want to hear something weird?  I had to turn it on in the closet.”

I stopped brushing my teeth.  “You had to turn what on in the closet?”

“The outlet,” he said.  “Weird, right?”

He pulled me over by my formerly-toothbrushing arm to our clothing closet and pointed to the wall.  Another little light glowed green.

“Has THAT always been there?”  I asked.

“Yep,” Kyle said.

I thought about it for a moment.  “But why do we need an outlet by the toilet?”

“For cell phones,” he said.

“Do you think someone is going to be in there long enough to need to plug in a cell phone?”

“And other stuff,” he said.  With that, he immediately set his toothbrush down and walked out into our bedroom.  I looked at the little green light, decided that if Kyle wanted to charge his phone on the toilet who was I to judge, and went back to getting ready for bed.

A few evenings later I was lying on the aforementioned bed with our two sons when Kyle came in and said,

“Don’t come in the bathroom.”

“Why not?”  Our seven-year-old said.

“Because,” he said.  He looked at me with his serious face.  “Don’t come in.”

“Not to worry,” I said.

For the next fifteen minutes, there was a tremendous amount of banging and clanging coming from behind the bathroom door.  At one point, Seven said, “I am going to go downstairs and get a drink of water,” and I said, “For your own safety, I don’t think you should leave the bed.”

Finally, Kyle emerged.

“Do you want your birthday present?”  He asked.

Eleven jumped up.  “IS IT HERE?!”  He shouted, and raced to the bathroom door.  Seven followed on his heels.  I got up a lot more slowly.  At the bathroom door, Kyle handed me a remote control with a complicated number of buttons – one of which read, “Defecation,” which is exactly what you’d expect in a birthday gift from your spouse – and pointed to my fancy new toilet seat.  A heated, air conditioned, spray-nozzled, probably-sentient toilet seat.  It beeped hello.

With that beep, the boys immediately started fighting about who got to use it first.  Kyle shut them down.

“This is mom’s toilet seat,” he said.  “No one else is allowed to use it.  She’s had to share with us for waaaaaay too long.”  He winked, probably to remind me of the multitude of times I’d SAT DOWN on SOMEONE’S PEE in the middle of the night, or the other multitude of times I’d been minding my own business and someone had been rap-rap-rapping at the door because “they needed to use the bathroom and they ONLY wanted to use THIS BATHROOM and not any of the other bathrooms in the house, and also they needed to tell and show me something.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “I love it.”

I’ve now had my toilet seat for a week, although Kyle’s plan to give me something just my own hasn’t really worked out because once my eleven-year-old figured out it squirted water and hot air at your butt he’s had every other eleven-year-old in Grand Forks up there trying it out.  Eleven has currently spent so much time in the toilet room that he’s needed to plug in his cell phone, so I guess the accuracy of Kyle’s statement about “cell phones and other stuff” related to what turned out to be a newly-installed outlet was also a surprise.

The photo above is of me on my toilet seat (pants on).

Students at Eagles Elementary in Fargo delivered cookies and muffins – and shared gladness – to the residents at Touchmark. (Valley News Live) (KVRR)

The hockey community celebrated long-time superfan Al Pearson at the recent UND-Minnesota Duluth game. (Grand Forks Herald)

Fargo has nine new ice and snow sculptures thanks to Jay Ray, Mike Nelson, and Josh Zeis. (KVRR)

Kyle and I both look for articles during the week, and every once in a while we land on the exact same one – like in this case.  My favorite line: “We’re the best band in the history of the world.  If another band wants to be better they just need 323 copies of the DVD.  It isn’t that hard.(Fargo Forum)

Minot’s Abbie Eads is a special guest artist on an upcoming album with the Seattle Guitar Orchestra. (Minot Daily News)

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