On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge. In a pear tree. No kidding.
This was a few years back, when we were still courting. But I'm reminded of her generosity and creativity every year about this time because some newspaper or wire service or blogger invariably runs a feature article about how, if someone really were to give all the presents on that celebrated 12-day checklist now, the tab, price-adjusted for inflation, would be $10,000 or more.
Well, not necessarily, as I can tell you from experience. See, the partridge in the pear tree that my true love gave me that Christmas was a small, tree-like branch stuck into a cheery flower pot and adorned with little yellow balloons for pears and a dried mushroom that looked remarkably like a bird.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave me two Turtles, the chocolate confection, each riding atop a bar a Dove soap.
On the third day of Christmas, she presented me with three French hens - well, okay, a small glass hen she found at a Salvation Army thrift store, plus three eggs. I could tell they were French because each wore a tiny black felt beret.
On the fourth day, while I was at work, my true love called my answering machine at home and mimicked the calls of four birds.
On the fifth day of Christmas, I opened a tasteful little jewelry box and discovered my true love had gifted me with five golden-looking rings obtained from her brother, a factory worker.
On the sixth day of Christmas, I got a basket of six eggs big enough to have been laid by geese.
On the seventh day, my true love presented me with a small, round hand mirror, its face gleaming like a lake. On it swam seven tiny, origami swans.
On the eighth day, I answered the doorbell at my house and found, on the front steps, a basket containing small cartons of dairy products -- 2%, half-and-half, chocolate, eggnog - eight in all. The note was signed simply "The Maids."
On the ninth day, my true love gave me an aerobics video with nine buff ladies dancing.
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love picked me up in her car and drove us to parking garage in downtown Minneapolis, where we were living then. I knew it was the lords a'leaping day, but I couldn't imagine how she would pull it off. Out on the street, I saw the city's arts center up ahead. "Aha," I thought. "Ballet." But no. She steered me right past it. And then, as the Target Center marquee came into view, I got it. Ten royally well-compensated men -- courtiers, if you will, members of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz -- were about to do some serious leaping. She had purchased affordable seats for us in the high-altitude section. At halftime, I fell to one knee and proposed.
On the 11th day of Christmas, I was still so euphoric that I didn't mind that my true love gave to me an old LP of bagpipers piping.
And on the 12th day, she gathered a dozen or so of our friends in her living room to drum up a solstice storm on everything from bongos to doumbeks to empty oatmeal canisters.
The cost of this Christmas extravaganza, far from five figures, was less than 50 bucks. And it's a gift that really has kept on giving. Those wonderful 12 days come back to me every time I hear that song.
Author's note: The illustration, "Four Calling Birds," is a painting from a series by Georgia folk artist Bob Hart. My true love is singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. You can experience her musical gifts for free by visiting Marty Winkler/MARTHA on Facebook.