It’s a common practise to purchase gifts for a couple who are to become newlyweds. Getting something you think will help them in married life isn’t unusual, neither is something sentimental that might speak to more than what money can buy.
I can recall my wedding day, and the fact that some months later there were still vouchers to be cashed in and bits and bobs to be assembled around the house. Which is why the story of Kathy and Brandon Gunn was of particular interest to me. You see, Kathy and Brandon had been married for 9 whole years and still had yet to open one last wedding present.
The gift came in a white box that they’d left sitting atop a shelf in their closet. The bridge’s great aunt, Aunt Alison, had gifted them it, and scribbled across an envelope attached to the package were the words: “Do not open until first disagreement” …
When Aunt Alison first handed the Michigan couple the package, they agreed they would honor her wishes and abstain from opening it.
Of course, they had squabbles and the occasional fallout over the years, as all couples do, but they continually refused to open the box for a different reason than she had intended.
In a post written by Kathy, she explained their reason behind keeping the box sealed: “There had obviously been plenty of disagreements, arguments and slammed doors throughout our 9 years. There were even a couple of instances where we both considered giving up… but we never opened the box.
“I honestly think that we both avoided turning to the box, because it would have symbolized our failure. To us, it would have meant that we didn’t have what it takes to make our marriage work – and we’re both too stubborn and determined for that. So, it forced us to reassess situations. Was it really time to open the box? What if this isn’t our worst fight? What if there’s a worse one ahead of us and we don’t have our box?!? As my Great Uncle Bill would say, ‘Nothing is ever so bad that it couldn’t get worse.’”
Then, one night, it all changed. Kathy and Brandon had put their two young children to bed and were enjoying a glass of wine. A conversation was started regarding an upcoming wedding they were attending in Kalamazoo, where they had met and attended college.
In the midst of the excited discussion, they began to bounce ideas as to what they might get for the new couple in terms of a gift. It was then that Kathy thought back to their own wedding day, and which gift had left a lasting impression.
“The funny thing? The gift that meant the very most was still sitting in a closet… unopened,” Kathy said.
The box had stayed in a closet for nine years and three house moves, the couple too scared to open it incase there was an occasion in the future where they needed it more.
On that evening, however, as they talked about the upcoming wedding of their friends, they decided it was finally time to open the box.
Inside were two hand-written notes – one addressed to Barndon and one addressed to Kathy – as well as some cash.
“Go get a pizza, shrimp or something you both like,” the note to Kathy read, while Brandon’s told him to “Go get flowers and a bottle of wine.”
There was also a crystal flower vase, two crystal wine glasses, bath soap, lotion, and bubbles, all designed to help Kathy and Brandon overcome any argument or trouble they might have faced.
It wasn’t the material objects that meant as much to Kathy, however, as the powerful message imbued within the gesture of giving them.
“All along, we assumed that the contents of that box held the key to saving a marriage – an age-old trick – unbeknownst to us rookies,” Kathy explained. “After all, my Great Aunt and Uncle had been married for nearly half a century. So, we thought the box would save ‘us’ – and in a way it did.”
With the box an ever-present, tantalising option, it served to teach the couple patience, understanding and compromise when they might have simply turned to it at the first opportunity.
In the end, they didn’t have to open the box when they were struggling, but rather when their marriage was strong.
What a wonderful story, and what a brilliant gift by Aunt Alison!
The path of love is never straight forward, never easy to navigate. Yet when that love is real, fighting for what you have and wading through the difficult times together is as important as ever saying ‘I love you’ in the first place.
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