It was the best of times. Set in the worst of times.
Amid COVID restrictions, how could we celebrate 46 years of wedded stress — er, bliss?
Normally, I offer suggestions way beyond our first anniversary, when Hubby’s parents paid for dinner at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Now, we pay for our own celebratory meals, sometimes in restaurants with daunting silverware and equally daunting prices. We no longer limit trips to exotic locales like Wabash, Indiana. Once, we even splurged on Hawaii.
But now, what to do?
Hubby enthused, “Let’s take a hike.”
But we hike so much, Hubby’s Fitbit thingy is exhausted.
“It’s cold,” I whined. Snuggling and drinking hot chocolate sounded saner.
“But I want to play in the snow.”
Snow? Okay! I donned cold-weather gear.
In a nearby forest, verdant pines and leafless oaks looked equally elegant. Outlined in white, scraggly weeds and thorny bushes proclaimed their Creator’s redemption. Though seemingly dormant, the forest teemed with animal tracks — with life.
Our decades together rested on us, light and joyous as snow.
It was the best of times.
Temperatures rose the next day, when we hiked at a nearly deserted park. Trees, having lost magical white clothing, shivered. We plowed through dark, sticky mud, attractive only when I imagined we were adventuring through brownie batter.
Soon, we navigated puddles, then streams flowing across trails. Images of Israelites crossing the Red Sea flooded my brain. Biblical thoughts, at least — more biblical than some eddying in my mind.
At a bison pen, big, shaggy animals barely blinked at our presence.
Bored bison are so romantic. Especially their smell.
Water inspires swoon-moon-June feelings, even in January. But the gray, half-frozen lake resembled an old black-and-white TV screen.
Skinny-dipping? For polar bears only.
Hubby asked, “Want to kayak?”
“Not enough ice and water for you on this trail?” I queried.
Fortunately, he was only half-serious. But he related how he and fellow Boy Scouts, during their winter paddle, chewed gum to mend their busted canoe.
“We had fun,” he insisted.
Despite challenges, we’d enjoyed our second hike, too. Together.
On January 4, 1975, I wouldn’t have anticipated fun on a mud hike. Then, we were all about storybook moments, white and sparkly like my wedding gown.
We still relive those moments, as on that incredible, snowy hike.
Still, mud-hike marriage moments happen, even in Hawaii. On a tropical trail, Hubby extracted me from sucky mud that stained us orange.
Thank God, we haven’t told each other to take a hike. Instead, we’ve taken a lifelong hike together, including the best of times and the worst of times.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are magical and mud-hike moments in your marriage?
O Lord, thank You for insights about our health, that taking small steps can benefit our bodies. I’ve learned that instead of counting down microwave numbers as if for a rocket launch, I can stretch and move …
Though, OMG, You’re right. The resulting hot chocolate isn’t part of the program.
Does that request conjure Norman Rockwell scenes of bright-eyed children and a sweet old lady playing that ultimate in generational togetherness, the board game?
Years later, I know better. If you’re dealing with COVID, you do, too.
But I was naïve then. Questions like, “Grandma, will you play kick-the-grenade with us?” wouldn’t have lulled me into false security. But this rosy prospect of quality time with seven-year-old Ava, five-year-old Josh, and three-year-old Jamie dulled self-preservation instincts. I asked my son-in-law for their Sorry!® game.
His eyes widened. “Sorry!®’s toxic! We hid it on a top shelf beside the roach killer.”
You’re totally overreacting. “Because you care about your children?”
“Because we wanted to survive. Play Candy Land®,” he urged. “Candy makes everybody happy. But Sorry!®? Sign a living will first.”
To reassure him, I did. Then, in my best grandma style, I gathered the children to play Sorry!®.
Game pieces debates ensued before we opened the box.
I intervened. “Ava, use blue pawns, since it’s your favorite color. Josh goes first, since he’s taking yellow.”
Was I good, or what?
Jamie objected. “My pieces.” His dimpled hands grabbed them all. Clever Grandma, however, had bought M&M’s® for such emergencies. “I’ll give you blue candies for blue pawns.” Eventually, Jamie returned all but the green pieces.
World War III, however, raged until the others received corresponding M&M’s®.
Players must draw one or two to exit the start area. Josh drew two, and Ava, one. Jamie drew 12, celebrating with a loud “Ya-a-y!” because he got both numbers. We didn’t contradict him.
I drew eight. With luck, I’d come in last. Of course, some people — specifically, grandpas — insist on winning. They cannot appreciate the skill that goes into playing badly. But children do. That’s why they’d rather play with Grandma.
Jamie decided he’d accept only 12s. Other numbers precipitated a Kewpie-doll pout and, “I can’t want that card.”
I tried to convince Josh to send my pieces back to start, but he targeted Ava’s. She swatted his off the table. The dog and cat, convinced they were big yellow M&M’s®, fought for possession.
Jamie, having drawn two 11s in a row, sent the newly arranged game board flying like a square Frisbee®.
This family afternoon had digressed from Norman Rockwell to Jerry Springer.
Proclaiming them all winners, I distributed the whole bag of M&M’s®, suggesting they improve their minds by watching SpongeBob. The Sorry!® game went back beside roach killer. I ate an extra bag of M&M’s® reserved to treat post-board-game trauma.
Would those kids talk Grandma into such “recreation” again?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What game wreaks havoc at your house?
O Lord, Thank You for our thoughtful children and their spouses, who together gave us this firepit for Christmas. Maybe they thought we would wait until summer before making s’mores? OMG, You know better.
We Midwesterners share a rich heritage of blizzard stories. Deprived tropics dwellers can’t appreciate our anticipation when The Weather Channel threatens wild winds, arctic cold and snow up the wazoo. Nor do they understand the joy of swapping lies — er, stories — of bravery amid Snowmageddon. A lifetime Hoosier, I have plenty to share.
A preschooler during my first blizzard, I recall my mother’s positive thinking. Despite three days in a two-room apartment with three little ones, she described the trees as “chocolate with white icing.” The Frosty we built resembled a malnourished alien, but we waved at him from our window. It seemed a friendly blizzard.
The second blizzard wasn’t. Winds howled like wolves, savaging electricity for several days. Cupboards emptied. Fortunately, shivering neighbors brought groceries when they came to enjoy our gas heat. Thirteen shared our three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Survivor had nothing on us.
But we nine kids — playing infinite games of Monopoly, Candy Land, and the unofficial but essential Freak the Grown-ups — considered it fun. Our parents, with extended therapy and medication, finally recovered.
A young married couple when the Big One hit in 1978, our car refused to navigate three-foot drifts. My medical student husband hiked to a police station, catching a ride to a hospital. For three days, he, another student, and a young resident physician — aided by stranded visitors — cared for little patients on a pediatric wing.
Meanwhile, I baked bread. A nearby fellow medical student wife, whose husband also was missing in action, helped eat it. Walking home, I foundered in a sea of snow-covered landmarks. Only a faint traffic signal in ghostly darkness sent me the right direction. Then a tall shadow blocked my way.
Gulp. The only rapist crazy enough to be out in this?
“How’s it goin’?” he rasped.
“F-f-fine.” I squeaked.
He passed by. I slogged home. When the snow finally stopped, my husband appeared, fell over like a tree and slept.
Not content with that harrowing weather, we moved north near South Bend, Indiana, where blizzard stories abound even more than blizzards. Babies and emergencies ignored storm warnings, expecting my doctor husband to show up. How rude.
School snow days brought hungry hoards incapable of studying algebra, but well able to conduct snow wars outside our house. Once, I was trapped with snow-dueling middle schoolers, teens armed with boom boxes, and soon-to-be-separated college sweethearts — along with remodelers who braved the storm to sledgehammer walls.
Blizzard days two decades later prove far less traumatic, but can stop our lives cold. Yet even if I must search for leftover Christmas candles to light my longhand efforts, I’ll do my usual January thing: tell blizzard stories.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Snowmageddon tale?
O Lord, You recall that 46 years ago today, a freshman medical student and his unemployed bride promised You they would love each other for life. The odds of keeping those vows appeared even skinnier than they were. But, OMG, thank You for helping us do the impossible!