Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm Not as Crazy as it Seems...

Really. But reading this latest column, you might not know that:

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Last week, my husband, Jay, and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. I’m not saying the last 15 years have always been easy—but I do know how good I have it. My husband is a patient, funny, not-easily-flustered soul. Which is exactly the kind of man I need. This may not come as a surprise to longtime readers, but it’s occurred to me once or twice that I may not be the easiest person to be married to.

Earlier this month, for instance, Jay took our sons “up north” for the fishing opener. Big weekend, that one. Takes a lot of planning. A lot of stringing rods and assessing tackle and packing strategically for cold May mornings. It takes lining the boat up just right to get it on the hitch, and making sure the life vests are sized correctly for growing boys.

At our house, this process takes days. Jay is one of those super organized people who likes to make sure everything is ready well in advance. (We differ in this way. A typical date night at our house, for example, includes Jay waiting in the driver’s seat of the car three minutes before I run out the front door, shoes in one hand, make-up bag in the other.)

True to form, 24 hours before Jay and the boys are to leave for the fishing opener, the truck is packed like a 500-piece puzzle. The boat is hitched. The trailer lights are checked. All that’s left to do is jump in and drive.

The truck, I should point out, is a new development. After years of sharing a single car with me, Jay recently became the owner of his dad’s old 2000 Ford Ranger. It’s one of those trucks with a small, extended cab and those little side seats in the back.

Anyway. It’s Saturday morning—minutes before liftoff. The kids are finishing breakfast. The fish are calling. This is when I decide to tell my husband what I’ve been thinking since I woke up: That I’m worried about our sons riding five hours one way in those tiny seats. That it can’t possibly be safe. That they only have lap belts, right? Lap belts! That, clearly, I won’t be able to rest the whole time they’re gone because I’ll be so worried.

To which Jay replies, “It will be fine, Jen.”

So I say it all again, only I rearrange the sentences to make it sound like a new argument… and add the part about taking our CR-V instead. My husband runs his hand through his hair and says, slowly, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

In an effort to bulk up my case, I Google for backup and find a 2002 JAMA study: “Children riding in the rear seat of compact extended cab pickup trucks were nearly five times more likely to suffer injury during a crash compared to children riding in the rear seat of other vehicles,” I read aloud. “We encourage families who own them to avoid transporting children in them and to find other forms of transportation."

I look up meaningfully at my husband. “See?” I say. “I’m not crazy.”

He shakes his head, sighs and walks outside. Lowers the tailgate and begins unloading fishing rods and buckets and coolers. Changes the hitch. Tests the trailer. And, I’m guessing, calls me 75 nasty names in his head—give or take.

But not a single harsh word to my face. And when he finally loads the kids into the CR-V, and I hug him and say, “Thank you for doing this”—he hugs me back and says, “You’re welcome.”

Of course, marriage isn’t one-sided. Which is why, all weekend long, every time Jay called me from the boat with his latest fish story—like the 14-pound northern he couldn’t fit his hands around—I did my part, too. I acted like it was the most thrilling thing I’d heard all day—all week, even. And I meant it.

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