in perpetuity

I always have a difficult time deciding on gifts for Michael…but then again, so does everyone else.  He’s the kind of person who buys what he wants.  That’s a fine trait in general, but it sends his mother and sister into fits around his birthday and Christmas.  I don’t have as much trouble with those gift-giving occasions as they do–I can spy on him in shops and see what things he doesn’t actually buy (I share that information with Judy and Melissa when I can!) –but when it comes to sentimental gifts I get a bit stuck.  I build occasions up in my head until they’re OCCASIONS, and then nothing seems quite good enough.  Even Valentine’s Day was difficult this year.  Our first married Valentine’s Day!  On and on and on.  After I made it through that small obstacle course, though, I had our anniversary to consider.  Our first wedding anniversary!  What ever could be good enough for that?

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Time.

The way I figure, anniversaries are about time.  Marking time, keeping time, measuring time.  They’re about paying attention, giving thanks, and congratulating each other on time well spent, time faithfully served, time that gives way to more and yet more time.  I thought of giving him a watch, but I dismissed that option for a few reasons.  First, Michael doesn’t generally wear a watch, and while I knew he’d wear whatever I got him, it’s not really his style.  Second, the watches I liked best were obviously the most expensive.  Finally, even if he wore a watch and money were no object, a watch would be about him rather than us.  He’d have to wear it (or not), and while he’d know I gave it to him, it wouldn’t be about our relationship.  It wouldn’t be something we shared.

And so, after lots of thinking and browsing the Internet, I got the idea for a personal perpetual calendar from Kate at Design Sponge.  (Likely via Pinterest, but let’s not talk about that particular budding addiction at this point.)  I really love the way that she’s done her “journal”–the little cardboard fruit basket, the vintage postcards–perfection!  So pretty!  But I wanted ours to be a little different.   Here’s what I came up with.

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First, I wanted bigger cards.  Since this was to be a first anniversary gift, I wanted the calendar space to last at least a decade.  I also wanted a more permanent basket situation for keeping it all together.  While I love the cardboard basket, it won’t hold larger cards, and our cat’s love affair with cardboard will not be stemmed.  Finally, I wanted to make the month-divider cards significant for Michael and me.  We haven’t been diligent collectors of postcards on our journeys, but I wasn’t sure what else would do the trick.  Satisfied that I could decide that later on, I set out (with Michael along, actually) to buy the supplies I knew I needed.

600 4×6 ruled index cards (two packs of 300)
a date stamper (I hate arranging separate stamps, but you might not)
a black ink pad (or whatever color you prefer)
an 6×7 inch wooden box (the second largest of four nesting boxes, purchased together)
acrylic paint (in white and teal)

I worked on the calendar while Michael was at the office.  First I painted the white portions of the box.  As that dried, I started stamping dates.  After several mucked up cards, I decided it was best to cut the year band away from the stamper entirely.  Things went more smoothly from then on, date-stamping wise, but it’s good to have so many extra index cards.  I got through March, then painted the blue insides of the box and another coat of white on the outside.  While all that dried, I got through June, then I put away my things for the day and began to think of what I could do to make the calendar more personal.  It was pretty, sure, but it wasn’t yet us.  I decided I would go ahead and write in days important to us–our first date, concerts we’ve attended, the birth dates of our nieces, etc.–and wrote all those in chronological order on a separate piece of paper.  While I remembered occasions and anniversaries, it occurred to me that photographs would be the perfect way to separate months.  Even better, I realized that I could paste photos on the backs of individual date cards.  As we continue to add memories to the calendar, we can add photographs too.  Neither I nor Michael are great about albums, but we both love photos.  This seemed perfect.  (And still seems perfect.)

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Overall, I think it’s been a fairly successful gift.  It’s nice to fill in what we’ve done, when we find it meaningful, and see what’s happened in previous years.  I can only imagine it’ll become sweeter (and more hilarious, perhaps) as time goes on.

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