Honey, I Got You Nothing!
For our 12th anniversary, I gave my boyfriend an empty box, his most-wanted anti-gift. He’s a minimalist; I’m a hoarder. That difference has been the source of our most epic and ongoing arguments. Whenever I ask what I should buy him, he tells me to clear out my belongings from his closet. This January, I finally did. Rather than painstakingly analyzing each photo, tangled piece of jewelry or DVD in my box marked “mementos,” I set a timer for 30 minutes and discarded ruthlessly. It was difficult, but his grin was worth it. — Rachel Kramer Bussel
The Wind Reached Him
Six months before she lost her life, my sister Anne-Marie gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. At 20, she was too young to care for him. He was whisked into foster care and promptly adopted. No one in our family ever laid eyes on him, but on his birthday each year, I hoped the wind would carry my good wishes to him. Forty years after Anne-Marie’s passing, Mark, my long-lost nephew, contacted me via Ancestry.com. This past December, his daughter Ariana was born. My sister, dead since 1978, is a grandmother. Like the phoenix of legend, she lives. — Catherine Peacock
When Goodbye Meant Hello
I walked into the restaurant in Asheville, N.C., and introduced myself. “I’m Adam,” I said. Your cologne smelled of sandalwood and jasmine. You did not seem new to me but like an old friend I had not seen in years. “I’m Kevin,” you replied. We shook hands and I sat next to you in the booth, instantly attracted but afraid to look at you for too long, as if you might disappear. After dinner, you walked me to my truck and we said goodbye only to speak to one another every day for the next 15 years. — Adam Coulter
Tear Down to Rebuild
They started to tear down the apartment building next door at the same time I started to think that my life might be difficult if I stayed with him. We woke every day to wrenching metallic sounds, drilling that reverberated and shook our home. I tried imagining my life without him and realized that I didn’t want to give up on our relationship. After ghosting two couples therapists in two months, we finally attended our first counseling session. In the pit next door, they began working on the foundation, also readying to rebuild. — Hailey Rollheiser