(This is a guest post by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42.)
After more than a decade of marriage it becomes more and more difficult to come up with gifts for the other person. The reasons for this are manifold. We’re lucky enough to have the financial security that we typically don’t have to use holidays as an excuse to get things we need. Replacing worn-out shoes and broken toasters are within our budget. That means we are each blessed with the opportunity to get things for each other that the other would want. The problem with that (and a nice problem it is to have) is that we already have many of the things we want. I love to cook, but over the years, I’ve acquired all the kitchen knives and pots and pans I need. My wife likes to sew, but she has a nice sewing machine already.
At this point, we’ve given up on most gift-giving holidays and instead open a nice bottle of wine, or find a babysitter and treat ourselves to an evening out. With two very busy lives and four very busy kids, the gift of TIME to be together is more precious than most “things.”
However, I am still a pen addict.
Ever since my addiction took hold, I have been trying to get my wife to enjoy pens as much as I do, sometimes with humbling results (See Pen Snobbery). I continued to hold out hope that I could find a fountain pen and ink combination that will work for my lefty life partner, and had been on the hunt for a particular pen for which I had high hopes. A Waverly nib has a slight upturn, like the tip of a ski, and I hoped this would help the pen glide through the push strokes with which so much of her penmanship has been cursed.
My search for an affordable pen with a Waverly nib had led me to one of those global trading websites, written mostly in indecipherable Japanese. (Thanks for NOTHING, Google Translate.) I was not at all confident that I was not sending my money and personal information to a hacker who could not BELIEVE his luck, but hey, sometimes that’s how it is in the fountain pen jungle.
The pen, a Pilot Custom 912, arrived just a few weeks before our 11th anniversary. I decided to break with tradition and give it to Dana on the occasion of our anniversary, a date we’d long since stopped viewing as a gift-giving opportunity. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, but I did want to give her a heads up that I’d gotten her something, as I didn’t want her to feel bad that she hadn’t had the opportunity to reciprocate.
“I’m getting you something for our anniversary,” I said. “I DO NOT want you to feel obligated in the slightest to get me anything. I just happened to find something perfect that I thought you should have.”
“What on earth did you get me?” she asked.
“I’m not going to TELL you!” I cried. “But I will say this: If you decide to get me something, make sure it’s something you’d like, too.” I realized immediately how suspicious this sounded.
“What does that mean?” she asked. “Wait – did you get me a pen?”
“No,” I lied, unconvincingly.
“You got me a pen, didn’t you? I can’t believe you got me a pen. You’re such a geek,” she said, grinning.
“Look, I will neither confirm nor deny that your gift is a pen,” I said. “All I’m saying is that if you get me something, it should be something you’ll like. You know, in case I don’t.”
That got an eye-roll.
A few weeks later, our anniversary arrived. We were at our oldest daughter’s theater camp’s Parents’ Night waiting for the performance to start when Dana presented me with a small gift bag. (I, being a doofus, had forgotten her present at work where I had had it delivered. She got it the following day.)
My hand swam through the tiny ocean of tissue paper and seized upon a metal box, about the size and shape of an Altoids tin. I pulled the box out. It did not say “Altoids,” but instead “Kaweco”!
In a flash, this particular anniversary immediately vaulted into the running for best ever. My darling, amazing, BEAUTIFUL wife had gotten me a pen! Unsolicited! This was quite a moment. Even more amazing, she got me a pen despite having a reasonable suspicion that I had gotten her a pen that might very possibly end up back with me.
I opened the box to find a Kaweco Liliput.
But not just any Liliput.
If you aren’t familiar with this pen, it’s spectacular. It’s the same compact shape and size as the aluminum and brass versions of the Liliput, perfectly proportioned for a pocket or slipped in the sleeve of a Fodderstack XL. The Fireblue version, however, is made from stainless steel: a little more durable than aluminum and a little lighter than brass. A perfect material choice.
The thing that really makes this pen stand out, though, is the finish. According to Kaweco, each pen is hand-finished by the company’s CEO with a torch. The intense flame burns away residual machining oils and impurities, creating a unique mottle of gray, blue and gold on the steel. It’s a gorgeous pen.
I was thrilled. I was also puzzled.
The Fireblue is a unique and not inexpensive pen with niche appeal, and is only available from a select number of retailers. For my non-pen addict wife to stumble across it seemed unlikely, and I knew she hadn’t heard of it before.
“Where did you get this?” I asked.
“Do you like it?” she asked.
“I LOVE it,” I responded.
“I’m glad you like it,” she said. “It wasn’t easy to find.”
“How DID you find it?” I asked. “And how did you choose this pen specifically?”
“It wasn’t easy, but I searched and searched for a steel pen,” she said. “There aren’t many out there.”
I blinked. “Steel?”
“Of course,” she said. “Did you know the 11th anniversary is considered the steel anniversary?”
I did not know that. I did know I had married the most wonderful woman in the world.