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Jottings contributor Cherie Dupuis shares a sneak peek behind what makes a good marriage.

The young newlywed tells you she wants a happy marriage like yours. Can she and her husband come to your house?

Of course. The house sparkles, the lunch is tasty, the conversation is lively with much laughter. Then... a brisk chirring bug sound echoes loudly from a nearby bathroom. Conversation stops. "What is that?" the guest asks as she side eyes her husband. "A pet," you say smiling thinly. You look at your husband too but your look is a glare.

So much for the "Happy marriage ala Martha Stewart" facade.

Truism: The young guest wanted the truth about marriage, not an image, and here it is.

* * *

Your husband is a creative bountiful gardener. Your yard hosts large clay pots filled with climbing, drooping, standing colorful flower combinations.

Unfortunately, those pots must live indoors through the Missouri winter. You lug the heavy unwieldy pots to the large bathroom with its south-facing windows. You leave a trail of fallen leaves and flowers and dirt and barely manage to keep your grumbles to yourself. When you finally can rest, that rasping trill of a bug sound starts. You frantically search each leaf and then the linen shelves for a source.

For days you continue the search. You don't understand why your husband can't limit the number of flowers (and bugs) to provide more house space and order for winter living. No critter is found despite weeks of looking, and the buzzing sound gradually weaves itself into the daily routine.

You forget about it until it alarms a guest.

Truism: That nurturing quality that you love most about your husband can give you your worst moments.

* * *

Your husband cares about all living things. He has chronic pain and cannot carry those heavy pots anymore, but is certain you will appreciate the beauty and health the plants bring in. He also thinks the afternoon buzzing is a fun addition to the winter doldrums. He likes the surprise of sound added to the visit with the guests. He is confused that you don't understand that nurture of life comes ahead of image, physical complaints, and your need for order and space.

Truism: You think the two of you were born on different planets.

* * *

On a snowy January morning you enter the bathroom to find a one inch brown chorus frog resting on the toilet seat. Aha! Mystery solved.

You move to throw him outside but your husband comes up behind you. "Look at those cute stripes. The little guy has done so well all these months and it's cold outside. I think he should stay." You sigh as you place the frog on the leaf of the elephant ear plant in the bathroom window. You've learned to pick your battles.

But the following week you find the frog on the dining room floor, no longer in the bathroom.

Your husband is not around so you quickly remove the frog to a tree in the yard. You are only following nature's plan, right?

But, alas, that afternoon the buzzing sound continues. How many frogs are there? A few days later you find another frog on the towel rack. Your husband is still sleeping so that frog, too, is given a quick trip to his natural habitat. And that afternoon you hear the sound again. Have you been overrun with frogs? Are the plants worth this effort? And where are those creatures?

A third frog finally shows itself and is also placed outside. The house returns to its afternoon stillness. Another chapter of "happy" married life balancing your need for order and space and his need for abundant life ends. Another memory to laugh about together on cold wintry evenings.

Truism: Living with one another's differences doesn't change the facts of your lives, but does change you in ways that round your personality.

* * *

The moral for your young guest: A happy marriage can be a vexation and that is good.

Cherie Dupuis is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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