Christine Mikalson

During this week of giving thanks, we're reminded that one of the keys to a long and lasting marriage is to show our appreciation to our spouses -- not only for the "big" things they do, but for all their small gestures of love as well. In our book about married life, Christine Mikalson writes about her successful 44 year marriage in her touching story "Diamond in the Rough."
When my husband and I were married, I accepted the fact that he wasn't the kind who would shower me with fancy words and expensive diamonds. I appreciated his gentle, honest love and found great pleasure in all of the beautiful cards he gave me, reading them often, and then putting them safely away. "I'm not good with words," he'd say, as he hugged me close, "but this card says everything that's in my heart."
I loved him deeply, yet part of me longed for the flowers and diamond rings my girlfriends' husbands gave them. What was wrong with me? Why did I have this need for flamboyant demonstrations of love? Why couldn't I just accept him as he was?
As time passed, we became parents of two little girls. With the extra expenses, my husband decided to go back to school and train as a mechanic. He would go to the city for the week and return home on the weekends. We had never been apart, and I, ever the romantic, cut off a lock of my hair. "Take this," I told him. "And whenever you're lonely, just run your fingers over it, and I'll be there with you." He grinned, placed the hair in a small plastic bag, and tucked it into his wallet.
The following years were a mixture of good and bad. We struggled financially. I went to work as a bookkeeper. The girls went to school and to a babysitter's. There was little time to worry about the lack of romance in our marriage. There certainly wasn't money for extravagant gift-giving.
But as times improved and our girls became quite self-sufficient, I again fought the feelings of disappointment, when I only received a card for a birthday or anniversary. Perhaps, I told myself as I cried silent tears into my pillow at night, he didn't feel I was worth anything but a card. Or did wooing die once the wedding rings were slipped on?
"Don't be a fool," my best friend said one day, as I told her of my longing. "Can't you see how much that man loves you?"
I sighed and nodded. I was being foolish. I decided it was time to put the nonsense behind me. I would not think of it again, I told myself.
Then one day many years later, as we sat at the kitchen table, Ivan dumped out his wallet in search of an elusive receipt. There among bits of paper was a familiar looking small plastic bag.
But it couldn't be.
Reaching across the table, my hand trembling with emotion, I picked up the bag. My eyes grew misty as I looked upon the brown lock of hair I had given Ivan 15 years earlier. My heart swelled with love for him.
"I can't believe you saved this all of these years," I said.
He squeezed my hand; then shrugged. "I'll always keep it," he said gently. "I love you."
This past year, my darling and I were married 44 years. He still is the quiet type, and my once brown hair has turned gray. But the lock of hair that remains tucked lovingly away in his wallet speaks volumes. I may not have diamonds to sparkle on my fingers, but I have a diamond in the rough, and his steady love is worth more than gold or silver. He's what lasting dreams are made of.

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