Large gifts, amazing trips, or profound acts of giving from a partner—like agreeing to let your sister live with you for six months while she gets her life together—are touching moments in a relationship. However, according to research, smaller moments, like a steady sprinkle of kindness and care, create a trusting and healthy relationship.
For example, Tim, my husband of 35 years, has brought me a latte every morning. On some mornings, he has a warm smile, but on other mornings, he is frowning because I have forgotten (yet again) to hang the keys. He has most likely been on a crazy search to find them, making him late for work.
Sometimes, it’s just business as usual, and regardless of how the latte is given to me, I begin the day with gratitude. It’s one of the rituals of our lives that I feel is the backbone of our relationship, keeping us afloat in the more chilly seasons and enriching us with appreciation in the warmer ones.
The latte maker broke a month ago—not stalled, faltered, or stuck. Broke. Died. Finis. There was a terrible moment when we looked at each other with despair, which only other latte lovers could understand!
Several months earlier, however, while I was visiting my daughter, she handed me a latte. The espresso was magnificent; the milk foam was richer and creamier than I had ever had. She whispered the name of the latte maker to me—the Rolex of coffeemakers, the Birkin of coffee. It was perfection.
I had an idea. A BIG one. What if this were a chance for me and my husband to really up our pleasure and give ourselves a gift that would keep on giving? What if we didn’t give each other Christmas presents and instead, we, too, could have the daily pleasure of the best cappuccino either of us has ever had?
Two days later, the latte maker arrived in a massive box with endless parts to assemble. Neither my husband nor I are tech-savvy, and it took us several hours and multiple phone calls to get the machine to work. And then, to my horror, I realized that I had ordered the espresso coffee maker without the latte in my excitement and haste. The time it took to pack it back up seemed endless, and I took extra care to order the next machine with the cappuccino frother. Two more days and a new big box arrived, and Tim spent many more hours putting it together and trying to make it work. Finally, the big moment was here—except that the frother broke loose, and instead of frothing milk in the cup, it sputtered milk all over the room. Tim and I looked at each other and agreed that it was over. He sent it back, we got a boring old Timex-style machine with no bells, whistles, or foam, and he announced that the morning lattes were over. He was returning to tea like the New Zealander he is, and he would bring me a cuppa if I wanted it, which I didn’t.
Thirty-five years of this beautiful ritual is over. It is a reminder that nothing lasts forever; everything changes, and we must let go of what was. I know all the stories about the caterpillar letting go to become a butterfly, but I wouldn’t say I like it when it’s happening to me. This was the best way to begin a day ever—with me appreciating Tim no matter what season of love we were in. It was core to all my talks and blogs about the rituals of connection and how a morning latte held together my 35 years of marriage.
Suddenly, it’s over.
I bought a handheld milk frother to make my latte later in the morning and will accept the cup of tea, but it sure doesn’t feel the same—it’s like munching on a bunch of sunflower seeds when you have been eating La Maison du Chocolates.
And then, it happened.
One morning, Tim came up with a (boring) cup of tea, but with it, an incredible piece of toast—not just regular toast but the right kind, using artisan bread, not charred and instead, with a perfect golden crunch. The generously applied butter sinks perfectly, and each bite is a delight. It is the ideal companion for the tea … so the butterfly has emerged from the cocoon. A new ritual is born, and I think it is even better than before.
Wishing you a safe and gentle winter with lots of wonderful new beginnings,