I suppose all women measure the success of their romance to some degree by the gifts they receive from their lover. My record has been spotty. Always generous, my husband has not always been wise.

Our first Christmas, when my husband asked what I wanted, I suggested he get me a jacket. Suede jackets were in vogue that year, and I dreamed of the lovely soft texture my hand would caress.

"I'll wear it when we hike," I thought, and my husband will think I am beautiful even then. I'll also wear it for town. With a skirt of soft matching tan, it will look just like a sophisticated outfit."

My dreams sharpened when he put my gift under the tree. (We had just a little tree that year because we were going home for Christmas and, since we had few decorations, we put our wrapped gifts under it ahead of time for atmosphere). My gift from him was a sizable box and I was sure, in spite of our poverty, that he had managed to get my jacket.

When Christmas morning came, I waited last to open it, savoring my anticipation to the very end. When I finally approached it, my fingers trembled so I couldn't get the wrappings loose, and I gave up and tore at them frantically. When I opened the box, there it lay, a jacket all right -- just like my husband's. Black leather

Because I loved the giver, he never knew how I felt. I thanked him with a kiss and tried the jacket on, modeling it for everyone's approval. But how I hated it. It was the sturdiest jacket that was ever made.

Even if I could have gotten rid of it without hurting my loved one's feelings, I couldn't afford to put it aside. We were poor, and keeping it was a matter of keeping warm. It wore and wore and wore. After about five years, the leather softened so it felt good, and I got some satisfaction out of our twin attire, but I never put that jacket on without a fleeting memory of my dream of suede.

The years passed, and the gifts continued -- corsages for dances when no one else had one, but never one on Easter...dust-catching knicknacks for the house an electric mixer when I got my master's degree. As our lives grew closer together, he got better, of course, and part of the time he molded me by what he gave, like the collection of ear rings from across the country when he traveled on business which produced a new hair style for better display.

Then one Christmas, when he had just been to Wyoming, that old, nagging dream of a suede jacket again reared its head.

"He might," I thought, "have found a suede jacket out there in the cattle country." Suede had gone out of style and was hard to find, but he knew by then that I liked it. He mentioned on his return that he had gotten my gift while there and was having it mailed.

When the package came, it was much too small for a jacket, so I put it under the tree and put my dream aside. Christmas morning was wild. The children were small, ecstatic and screaming by turns. In the midst of our festivity the tree, purchased because it had a flat side that would fit close to the window where it was to stand, lowered its branches too far for balance and the whole tree toppled over on top of the jumble of presents and people.

By the time I got to my present, I was beyond caring what it contained only, as I picket it up, I became curious as to what it could be. It was so light!

It was a suede jacket! The suede was so soft that it folded easily into a package that could have been a book. Its lining was luxurious satin. It was warm and soft and light. It was even blue, my favorite color. The soft color had a trim of shiny leather showing here and there and, instead of buttons, it had a soft belt that came half way round to tie in front. It was more beautiful than any suede jacket I have ever seen before or since. The fit was perfect, and I truly felt the arms of love around me when I put it on.

I didn't have it long. It burned in the fire we had in our home, but that is just as well. It will always live in my heart in its full glory, and if I had kept it, it would be worn and drab by now.

Small wonder that men are confused by women. My husband has been faithful and loving all the years of our lives together. He has, in addition, given me all that he earned which has been considerable. Why should I, then, expect any more? Why don't I just tell him what I want? It's because I am a woman, and a lucky one at that. It took him fifteen years, but he found the perfect gift all by himself. It's the understanding we seek which lies deeper than logic. I would that every woman have one "suede jacket" in her life.