She wanted a new mixer for their anniversary. Not the most romantic of gifts, but all the chefs on her favorite cooking shows have this mixer. She imagines all the wonderful cakes, cookies and pastries she could create if only she had the same mixer all the professionals use. Maybe start a business selling her creations. She’s been making baked goods for family and friends for years, but has always laughed off their suggestions that she should go into business for herself. “Taking care of my family is my business and it’s a full time job”, she tells everyone. But she dreams of doing what she tells everyone she doesn’t have time for, and she knows her husband understands this dream. They’ve never talked about it, but he knows how much she loves to bake; he’s aware of how many cooking shows are recorded on their DVR. He must. He complains about it constantly.
Instead of a mixer, her husband presents her with a canvas he’s painted–a portrait of her and their kids inspired by a photo he snapped at the Grand Canyon last summer. She tells him she loves it, how touched she is by such a thoughtful, personal gift. But she doesn’t love it. Painting is his hobby, not hers. If he’d thought of her instead of himself, he would have realized that she had her own dreams. None of which had anything to do with painting.
He wanted an easel and a new set of artist brushes for their anniversary. He works at the bank 40 hours a week, but only because he has a family to support. His wife often suggests that with his degree in fine art, perhaps the bank president would let him paint some canvases to replace the tacky reproductions currently hanging in the bank lobby. The first time she suggested it, he was excited about the possibility. It was only after he overheard his wife’s phone conversation with her sister that he realized she was being sarcastic. That she didn’t really think his art was good enough to hang in a small town bank lobby, let alone in any art gallery. Now when she makes that suggestion, he laughs and nods his head. But it hurts just the same.
Instead of an easel and artist brushes, his wife gave him a new suit and tie. Dress for success she’d always heard. Besides, the senior loan officer at the bank was about to retire, and a promotion for her husband was a real possibility. Maybe being in a management position would make him happier at his job. Maybe even enough for him to put away his art supplies so they could reclaim the guest room back from his ever growing hobby. He tells her he loves it. She has the best taste in clothes, and he’s so grateful to have a wife who supports his career.
He spends the rest of the day painting dark clouds over the valley in his latest landscape.
And the elephants feed and grow.
Editor’s Note: If this is the first post you’ve read in this series, you may want to check out The proper care and feeding of elephants, Part 1 for further explanation.