Every marriage, no matter how long or short, has its red-letter days. Many of those days the two of you can agree on (e.g., anniversaries, buying your first house, birth of a child). Others are days that only one of you finds memorable — usually at the other’s expense. This is one of the many things that makes marriage a very special relationship — it shows you are always thinking of the other person.
My husband, for example, might hint that one of these red-letter days was a time he has referred over and over, ad nauseam, for ages. Yeah, so I was cleaning up and throwing things out and very accidentally and understandably got rid of some thin pieces of paper that turned out to be an airline ticket. The way he carried on and continues to bring it up to this day, you would have thought I did it out of spite. He also ignores the fact that this was a single, very tiny failure out of decades of marriage and hundreds of airline tickets, many of them not even to places worth going to. But whatever. He can get his own blog if he wants to complain about it and carry a grudge.
Far more amusing and significant are my own picks for marital red-letter days. Let me give you two examples:
1) Like his father, my husband suffers from occasional onslaughts of cheapskatism. These moods, which I consider psychologically unhealthy, come out of nowhere. For instance, I was perfectly happy with the bank we used in Dallas. I suppose some people could take issue with my satisfaction, since a bank would have to rob me at gunpoint to get me to consider moving my money, but too bad. I was content.
My husband, however, had begun to talk to other people at work who convinced him we were being robbed — robbed! — by the fees at our bank. Here and there, a dollar or two was disappearing, never to return again. It all added up, my husband told me urgently. Big deal, I said. I never met a fee I couldn’t ignore. But that didn’t stop him. A few days later, he’d moved our money to a credit union several miles away, where the people who worked didn’t rob you blind with fees, fees, fees.
When I think of our brief stay at that credit union, what do I think about? A scene that’s still etched in my mind. We were leaving town for the Fourth of July and stopped by our new “bank” to cash a check. Which was kind of funny, since every other fee-phobic in town was trying to do the same thing. The wait in line looked like a parking lot, filled with vehicles and families like us, with hot, screaming kids in the backseat. An hour later — or was it two? — we finally got our money. What’s interesting about an hour or two is how many times you can say “I told you so” if you talk quickly enough.
2) Then, around that same time, we bought a new car. My husband got the heebie-jeebies about getting a stereo installed at the car company. No, no, no, he kept insisting. We’d look elsewhere for something cheaper. I suppose it was cheaper — just like the credit union — but the company we went to had the innovative idea of installing speakers in the car doors. Every time you shut the door, the speaker would pop out. Annoying, to be sure, but also the opportunity for many playful, good-natured exchanges about how wonderful it was we’d saved all that money. Who needed competence when you could save a few bucks?
3) OK, so this happened two days ago, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The two of us are cleaning out our house before we go to New York. I’d cleaned out my office, which was a gargantuan task, and was running our 2003 tax returns and documents through our cheap little paper-shredder. Finally, it shuddered and died.
We went to Office Max to buy a new one — big and industrial-strength — and lugged it home. My husband shook it out of the box and plugged it in. Nothing. We moved it to another electrical outlet and turned it on. More nothing. My husband shook his head morosely. It was flawed, he said. A piece of junk. Had to be taken back.
I piped up that maybe we should call Office Max first and find out whether there was something we were doing wrong.
Forget it, my husband said. He’d looked the paper-shredder over, had even read the directions, for God’s sake. Don’t be silly.
So we loaded it up and took it back and the Office Max guys brought out another paper-shredder. We insisted they start it while we were there to make sure it worked. They did, flipping a small switch on the side we’d never seen before.
“I think our paper-shredder works,” my husband said in a low voice. “I didn’t throw that switch. I didn’t know it was there.”
“You should have called us!” one of the guys said. “We could have told you where it was.”
“That’s what my wife said,” my husband said. By this time, his voice was barely audible.
“Oh, man,” the other guy said, “I’m sorry for rubbing your face in it.”
We drove home silently, but one of us had a big grin on her face. It was that kind of day, when more than paper got shredded.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)