Six or so years ago, I received a gift.
It was tiny battery operated White Chapel, covered in ‘snow’.
That chapel was my first ever Valentines gift. It was also my first gift in over four years.
When Olivia presented it to me in an equally tiny box, I stood there and stared at it blankly. I examined it for close to three minutes.
Here was a gift I did not have an idea what to do with. I thought about the cake I had just picked from the confectionery shop, and the bottle of wine that was chilling in the fridge and felt shortchanged. The bouquet of fresh lillies and roses that I had personally delivered at her place of work and I thought about the money wasted.
She noticed the look on my face.
“It glows when you switch it on,” she said, turning it over and flipping on a switch that lay hidden somewhere underneath.
“So on top of glowing, what else does it do, this chapel?” I remember asking, my eyes darting from it to Jack Bauer on the TV a few feet away.
“It’s a chapel. It’s supposed to remind you of how pure and true our love is. But you know, we could just place it in that corner over there,” she offered.
I grudgingly accepted and it took up the space next to the old battered television set. I rushed back to the kitchen to continue with my surprise of her favourite meal. This day had to be special. But now it looked like it was getting ruined by a not-so-good present. This is not what I expected. I mean how could she get me something meant for girls?
Did she not know my taste in presents? Was there something else she was hiding and was planning to unleash after my version of a three course meal?
Upon my return from the kitchen, I went straight to Mr Bauer and his pursuit of Serbian terrorists.
Minutes later, I popped open the bottle of wine and served the meal. I tried to keep my cool but honestly, I do not remember what we talked about the entire night under the glowing red-blue-green lights of the white chapel, although I remember the food tasted horrible. The wine too, tasted like a mixture of Kazire and spoilt milk. I never stopped thinking about the white chapel and how much money had been wasted on it.
Years later, even after moving house several times, the white chapel still stands tall. It retains its space in one corner of the house.
Today, it has lost its original snow white hue due to dust. It’s lights do not work anymore because the springs in the battery section broke due to rust. The door up the winding stairs has also been flung open by a curious little girl who once asked me who lived in the ‘beautiful white house with Jesus’ cross on top.’
Everyday, she peeps through the door to see what Jesus is still doing inside or whether he will come out one day.
Now, everyday, instead of watching Big Deal, I watch the chapel. Every night before bed, it is there, still in its newly acquired brown colour.
And every time I look at the little white chapel, which has probably been my best gift to date, I am reminded of a love that was true. Because it is the thought that counts, not how expensive the gift is or food is.