Women are different from men. Women like to shop. They wander from store to store evaluating the merchandise, occasionally buying a card or a small gift or something larger.

When a man needs something, he contemplates the store in which it might be found. He goes to that store, buys what he needs and goes home — a befittingly simple process. A good friend stopped by our house on a Tuesday and said, among many other things, “Martha, isn’t Friday your birthday?”

Oh, oh! Emergency shopping required! Our son, who knows some stuff, says gifts may be of hard substance, but also may be experiences or consumables.

After some pleasant negotiations and combining the last two categories, we decided Martha’s birthday gift would be a Sunday trip to First Grace United Methodist Church on Canal Street in New Orleans. First Grace is a truly multi-ethnic congregation pastored by the dynamic Rev. Shawn Anglim, formerly of Baton Rouge.

“Passing the peace” in a service there usually takes about 20 minutes because everyone wants to shake hands with or hug everyone else. An usher walks through the congregation ringing a bell when it is time for folks to return to their seats. After church, Martha and I planned to go to Café Degas on Esplanade, where I could order a mimosa and their special delicacy — liver and onions.

Next was the birthday card issue. On Thursday, I went to Ellen’s Gifts on Lee Drive, where I always go for cards, and found it closed for business. In my ignorance, the only alternative for me was a big-box grocery store.

There, I searched under the column of cards titled “wife” until I found a moderately OK card. The front said things like:

For my wife,

you’re the fizz in my soda,

the hip in my hooray,

the alphabet in my soup,

and other similar inanities.

I hid it under the accumulation on the front seat of my pickup and went home planning to get up early on Friday, sign the card with appropriate terms of endearment and give it to Martha at breakfast.

The next morning in the early light of dawn, in the truck cab, I tried to sign the card only to find that the paper was too slick to accept ink from a ball-point pen.

I finally scribbled my words of affection on the envelope and proudly took the card in to my dear wife. She read the silly sayings on the cover, opened the card and laughed — the wrong kind of laugh.

“Look at this,” she said showing me the inside page:

“Happy Anniversary,” it said.

The experiences and consumables part of the birthday proceeded with much more grace. Pastor Shawn gave us an amazingly inspiring sermon on the treasures of life. At Café Degas, Martha had a delicious quiche and a peach mimosa.

For me, the liver and onions was superlative, and Sazeracs, substituting for mimosas, a final grand touch.

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