The Perfect Gift

Word people can be pretty nerdy. My wife, Suzannne, and I are both word people. We met at a party after a fiction reading when I was in graduate school, and we bonded over our ability to know the names of the states in alphabetic order. You don’t get much nerdier than that.

As nerdy word people, we tend to hang out with others in our tribe. When our geographic bonding crested into an emotional bonding, we decided to get married. Two valued members of the tribe pooled their resources to purchase the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged. You can see it there in the photo. It’s a beauty, isn’t it? (That stunner still retails for about $200 new. Of course, you can pick up a well-thumbed copy for about $15.)

American Heritage Dictionary
Putting the dictionary on its pedestal

Aside from the very generous nature of the gift and the very appropriate relationship it had with our lives, there was the perfectly worded inscription on the card. “Because everybody needs a kick-ass dictionary for a wedding gift.” From that day to this, our family has called this tome the “Kick-Ass Dictionary.”

It sits on a swiveling pedestal under its own dedicated lamp. Right now it is open to the definitions ranging from “dept.” to “descendant.” Someone was looking up the spelling of “derailleur,” which is natural since recently we have been doing a lot of bike riding, a lot of working on bikes, and a lot of derailleur adjusting.

This dictionary – this kick-ass dictionary – occupies the same physical and spiritual space in our family that the Family Bible does in many other families. Our son’s friends once asked him how he had developed such a large vocabulary, and Sam responded by saying, “What’s the first thing you see when you come into our house? A dictionary.” (I wish he had said, “A kick-ass dictionary,” but not all anecdotes resonate precisely. Besides, he was 13 years old at the time and not yet comfortable using swear words in front of his parents.)

Twenty-two years after we married, the whimsical cereal bowls and the utilitarian carving set we also received as presents have long since expired. But the dictionary continues to give back. Everybody needs a kick-ass dictionary. Whether you’re getting married or not, it’s the perfect gift.

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