We read that sales during the 2018 U.S. holiday shopping season rose 5.1 percent to over $850 billion. Because of a robust economy and tempting discounts, many shoppers didn’t think twice about increasing their credit card debt.

I am not surprised to hear that holiday shopping generated near to a trillion in sales, because we (my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, and I) certainly went out of our way to do our share. We are proud that we contributed to the booming Maine and national economy. Many Americans might consider us to be a bit peculiar, however, because we spent only hard cash and charged nothing.

Although we, as a couple, did more than our share, please understand that my part was marginal. Like a boy who never learned to speak because he was raised by wolves, I never learned how to spend money because I never had any. For me, buying things is a spectator sport. I am not even qualified to stand back and applaud from the sidelines.

This is not to say that I am cheap or mean. When I first met Marsha 30 years ago, mad with infatuation, I really tried to spend with reckless abandon.

But, like your typical knockaround husband, I had no idea of what my wife wanted.

For a few years I spluttered along by dragging home this or that, but finally realized that no matter what I bought, it was the wrong color, the wrong size or that it was something she just gave to the Salvation Army two days before.

If you have ever given a loved one a thoughtful gift, only to have her throw back her head and laugh, you know that buying on impulse for others is an art that cannot be learned in sociology, psychology or anthropology classes. Buying a Christmas gift for others is like being able to appreciate scenery, sunsets or Neil Diamond. Either you can do it or you can’t, and many years ago, like too many well-meaning husbands, I learned that getting little token presents for my wife was a waste of time and effort.

Of course, as our marriage ripened, there was no need to buy gifts because we already had everything.

If you’ve ever been there, you know that at this point gifts must be expensive, unique and unneeded.

One Christmas, antique dealer Ross Levett sold me a beautiful antique coat button that some enterprising Dutch archaeologist had dug out of an 800-year-old privy site in Amsterdam. It is to be worn around the neck on a long, slender gold chain like a polished fang from some huge animal. Marsha abandoned it when too many disbelieving friends asked to see the provenance.

In sharp contrast to her husband, my beautiful young trophy wife was born with the gift of buying, doing and saying the right thing. She intuitively knows when I want shrimp and rice with veggies for supper instead of ham and mashed potatoes with spinach. Or that spaghetti with cold, meatless sauce right out of the bottle will be just the thing. She acts accordingly, and it appears on the table, seemingly without effort.

Although you know that I have a horror of digressing, someone who tuned in late might now ask why I never prepare a meal. You and other close friends know that there are two ways I can get my wife to laugh. One is to put my hands lovingly on her shoulders, look into her eyes and whisper, “I am the boss in this house.” No matter how many times I have done this over the years, she is incapable of keeping a straight face. The second way to make her laugh is to put my hands lovingly on her shoulders, look into her eyes and say, “Why don’t you let me prepare a wonderful supper?”

I mentioned that Marsha knows how to say the right thing at the right time. It might be a question about your grandson who is touring with a concert band in China or your mother who just moved into a smaller apartment. She even remembers the names and everything you’ve ever told her about anyone even vaguely connected to your family.

Because she is omniscient, buying or making my Christmas presents is always easy for her. This year she sewed two pockets on the legs of my new dungarees and then squandered our entire retirement nest egg on a pair of dollar store reading glasses and two ballpoint pens.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html