Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happy anniversary to us

It's our 31st wedding anniversary today, and I woke up in bed by myself this morning. Sigh. So I got up, went downstairs and found my sleepless partner dozing in the chair. His knee hurt. And his business has him in a worried funk. I always thought by now we'd be taking it a little easier, the kids would be on their own, we'd be done paying for schools and basketball camps and swimming lessons and iPods. But I didn't think we'd be paying $4 a gallon for gas, that groceries for two would cost over $100 a week (at one time, that fed a family of five quite nicely), that I'd be prayin' for furnace season to end, and that we'd be 10 years into a struggling family business.

But all finances aside, do I have a regret in the world? Not one.

We are blessed. Thirty-one years ago today we started something pretty rare. He's still my best friend, and I'm still his. He still makes me laugh, and I still put away his laundry. It's a fair deal, even though most young couples would think we're old-fashioned. Together we raised three fabulous children, of whom we're so proud. They're like badges of honor on the sash of this marriage. Do we have disagreements? Sure. But doesn't everybody?

Sometimes you have to be thankful just to be there -- to be present -- for each other. My friend Arlene's dad, Clarence Vail, died a few days ago. There's a story about him in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today. When he died, Clarence was 101, and he and his wife, Mayme, had been married 83 years, longer than any other couple in America. Their secret? Nothing fancy: Just respecting each other and working together to get through the day, the month, the year.

Facing an uncertain future is always a little easier with a hand to hold. And I'm still so grateful we were able to keep a promise we made so long ago.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

If it's all the same to you, those are laugh lines, not wrinkles

MinnPost writer Christina Capecchi, one of this blog's few but esteemed readers, has an interesting piece today on wedding trends that reveal our society's obsessions with celebrity, its stunning lack of self-esteem and its amazing gullibility: "Here comes the bride -- picture-perfect, thanks to the likes of Botox, veneers and stunning makeup."

About to become a bride herself, Capecchi has interviewed providers and pushers in the "personal services" industry who aim to make brides (and their mothers, mothers-in-law and little dogs too) feel not quite good enough to walk down the aisle without having a little "work" done. Now I don't know about you, but just the thought of a Brazilian wax makes me catch my breath a little. If you think anyone's gonna stick a needle in my face, you have another thing coming. And if my teeth are crooked, old and not bright white, well ... that's what photo retouching is for. As Popeye said, "I yam what I yam." I'll be a mother-in-law, with gray hair and a girdle, I guess. (Unless, of course, I can wean myself from wine except on weekends and get to the gym a few more days a week.)

I do hope, however, that my soon-to-become daughter-in-law doesn't get sucked into all of this self-flagellation and knows she's beautiful just as she is, inside and out. I'm reminded of a line from a song in the 1965 TV version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella": "Do I love you because you're beautiful or are you beautiful because I love you?" (Nostalgia alert: You can swoon over the dreamy prince here. I used to pretend I was the princess, played by Lesley Ann Warren, who, I might add, has crooked teeth and a funny smile and is breathtakingly gorgeous just the same.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sha na na, dip dip dip dip ...

We have a job-seeker at our house -- a 23-year-old, engaged-to-be-married guy who's a good dresser with lots of ambition, is easy on the eye, has a bachelor's degree in business communication, reliable transportation, a little job experience in radio and remodeling and washing cars. Take my son, please ...

It's a tough row to hoe for these newly minted college graduates. I remember looking for that first job, writing cover letter after cover letter, blanketing the world with my resumes and trying to act all mature and confident when I actually got to beg a real person to hire me. When I finally succeeded, I think I was making all of $5 an hour, a living wage in 1977. I was thrilled to have the job even though I basically hated it because I'm really not an extrovert and had had to be with people ALL DAY LONG. I didn't like the job much, but it sounded good on paper. My first child was my little excuse for a graceful exit since I am not a quitter and didn't want anyone to call me a job-jumper.

Now job jumping is normal behavior and a sign of ambition. Go figure. I've been in the same job 20 years. Does that mean I'm not ambitious? I don't think so. I'm just lucky and content and have good health insurance. Why mess with a good thing? I know some corporate types who would gladly trade places with me. Besides, right now I am wearing flip-flops and a pair of bermuda shorts and have had one tiny phone call all day long. I get paid for reading, writing, editing, advising, planning. All the things that one nearsighted, wardrobe-challenged, introverted grammarian can do. And lately, I get paid for being the devil's advocate, the "common scold." Everyone needs at least one.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Not exactly Perry Mason

On Saturday I officiated at an argument worthy of witness by the Supreme Court. The defendant? Owen, age 3. The prosecutor? William, 3 himself.

W: "A truck is a car with a box."

O: "No it's NOT. It's a truck. A truck is not a car."

W: "Yes, yes it IIIIISSSSS! A truck IS a car!"

O: "No it's NOT! A truck is not a car, it's a truck!"

This conversation continues escalation, punctuated by a good-sized slap to the head, followed by another, at which point the parties were returned to the bench. Sobs all around.

Me: "Owen, you're right. A truck is a truck. And Will? You're right, too. A truck can, indeed, be a car."

O: "Nonna, that's not right."

W: "Yeah, Nonna, that's not right."

Me: "Well, at least you can agree about something."

Case dismissed.