Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Traditionalists

If it's your anniversary and you, say, have four kids, and it is a sticking-around-home kind of anniversary year, what would you do?

Maybe you'd have an 8-year-old who could choose the menu.

"I was born to eat Mexican food." (She gets that from me.)

And a 9-year-old whose competitive streak extends to any possible activity, even if it requires these shoes:

No, that's not a pearl necklace for 16 years of wedded bliss:

And after gifts, your 4-year-old and your husband could provide the entertainment:

It helps if you blow on it:

And then sit down to watch:

"Bowling is a serious sport."

So is marriage.
Before we were married, our church required personality type testing and a six-week class followed by private premarital counseling. I guess they thought if we'd willingly and successfully jump through all those hoops, we'd be pretty well prepared to negotiate the obstacle course of life as man and wife.
I think about our premarital class much more often than you might imagine. The most gut-busting laughs we had the summer before we said "I do" came directly out of that class. And then, lo and behold, we actually quoted the teachers to one another fairly regularly for the first couple of years of power struggles, I mean, conversations.
Our teachers' names were Howdy and Patti. Now that we live in the same county we dated and were married in, I run across Howdy and Patti every so often. Eight years ago, in fact, I called Howdy (who, by the way, is a very respectable and respectful elderly gentleman; it honestly never occurred to me what a strange name he has until I had to type it three times for this paragraph) on the phone and thanked him for a certain story he told during class.
OOH! Would you like to hear it? It's free! And you don't even have to go to the church basement six weeks in a row to get it.
When Howdy and Patti were newlyweds, he was a car salesman and she stayed at home. This was far more common than it is today (the stay-at-home wife, not the car salesman, for sure), and even though their generation had no Internet, they did have kitchen doors and coffee pots, so rest assured Patti had her own version of a SAHM chat group. I think they called that friends.
Very early in their marriage, they were blessed with three children. And although they had a whirligig clothesline and a telephone (I'm just guessing here, it has been 16+ years since I heard the story), the young Howdy and Patti did not have two automobiles. In fact, of the two of them, only the young car salesman could drive.
So here's where the trouble began:
One day, Howdy came home without the family car. He'd traded it, you see, for a sporty yellow two-seater coupe. He was so enthralled with the car that he asked Patti to come out for a drive that evening. Of course she noticed right away the two-seat situation (perceptive as you would expect a mom to be) and asked a neighbor to sit with the babies.
They enjoyed a nice drive, and Patti didn't say a word. (Can you imagine the restraint? Here would have been my monologue, maybe internal, and maybe not: We have children! For crying out loud, what was going through his mind? What if we have to go the doctor's office? How will we do Christmas at my mother's? What on Earth was he thinking? And so on, probably with stronger language.)
Howdy then took the car to a few friends' houses, all of whom razzed him and a few of whom asked whether he'd bought another family car for his wife. He reported that his friends' questions were the first that he'd realized this car might not have been a rational choice for a family of five. It might have been, you know, impulsive.
He might have been thinking only of himself.
How many points do you think Patti won for not calling him an idiot the moment he pulled in the driveway? Howdy had to sell the car at a loss, and then he purchased another family car. Decades later, in teaching a bunch of engaged couples how to communicate better, he said he never would forget that bonehead purchase, and the way his young bride let him realize the error and fix it.
Patti's side of the story is the part that fascinates me. Her patience and good humor, mostly. It is exceptionally hard for me to keep my mouth shut until someone wants my opinion (Blog = Exhibit A). But it always goes better for me when I do hold my tongue.
Marriage is the longest running conversation I've ever had. Saying "I do" was sort of like saying,
"Let's listen to each other forever, even when no one's talking.
"Let's listen to each other even when the kids have runny noses and I've been up all night working on a proposal and you have a 7:30 meeting. Let's hear what one another is saying.
"And if you're saying you need a yellow two-seater coupe, could you leave me my Suburban so we can take the kids bowling on our sixteenth anniversary? Thanks."


Dick Daring said...

Miriam- Thanks for sharing that story, too cool. Sorry to hear about your friend.

Agent K said...

Umm. trying to keep mouth shut....not working...

How in the heck did my hubby comment on you before me???

Happy Anniversary friend.

OHHH...and gads! Get a load o' those jeans *squeeeel* look out Lyle!

Becca said...

ha this is so funny and i can relate to it so well!

About 7 years ago, before we had a child, my husband's car was dying and he decided to buy a yellow mustang!! (which essentially has no backseat for any practical purpose). I got so many kudos from people (mainly middle age men) for "allowing" him to do it, got told what a "good wife" I was. i was like huh? its his car, I have one of my own, he can have what he wants.

anyhoo, a few years later we moved to bush alaska and left it in storage at a friend's house for 3 years. then we moved to town and needed two cars, so he paid $3000 to ship it up here. I still said nothing, I had my car.

He bought a beat truck for winter because it wasnt practical for winter driving, and it sat on our drive for 8 months a year. I said nada.

Then we had a baby. I said nothing when he picked me up from hospital in it, and he had to cram the car seat in the back and I practically ate the dash on the ride (not to mention the fun of getting down into it after a c-section).(well, i might have said something that time)

Then the baby got bigger and he realized the difficulty of getting a toddler in and out of the back seat, and decided, on his own, to get rid of it. He traded it for a very practical 4-door, year-round truck.

As Patti did, i waited patiently for him to come to his senses. It just took 5 years in my case.

(and my 10th anniversary is in less than a month!)

Happy anniversary to you!

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barb said...

I needed this reminder because, um, my husband has a nice family car but HIS MOTHER IS VISITING AT THIS VERY MOMENT.

And it is Very. Hard. to not say anything.

Together 12 years and I'm still refining the conversation...

(Sorry about the deleted post but I accidentally published it under my husband's name. Sort of bad form when I'm griping about his mother, huh?)

Amydeanne said...

awww that looks like fun.. the bowling that is! :)