Archive for September, 2007

Are You Ready Yet, Darling?



It is a given that you will marry the very person designed to cause you the most stress. Having been married twice and a participant in at least one long term relationship, I can go on record that anyone at all will serve–or is it just that I am truly impossible to live with? Some have put forth such a hypothesis–where they now lie buried is a mystery I won’t share until my upcoming tell-it-all potboiler “He Just Made Me So Mad” is on the shelves at your local bookstore.

What has upset me enough to write about? Answer: Everything-but to begin with—I do hope you’ll be in this for the long haul–timing—I mean timing as to when we should leave for a doctor’s appointment, a funeral, a wedding or a dinner party. When it comes to the last two my husband wears his why-do we have to go-to this damn thing for Chrissakes?-face. This means his disapproval is so great he won’t be ready on time. Moreover, he makes it clear that had he realized I came equipped with a plethora of friends who had marriageable children or gave parties, he would have walked off in the direction of the Hudson River smart as you please doing us both a great favor before the ceremony uniting us some years ago.Thus up until the last minute of our departure, he is mumbling and grumbling about having had to change out of his much loved ventilated sneakers and khakis.

When he finally joins me–I am the driver, by the way–but then we both want to live–it is already past time to leave, he asks how long we have to stay once we’re there–anything over thirty minutes is greeted with a protesting growl and then the demand of a commitment as to the exact time we will start for home. Mind you we haven’t even left the driveway and may well have an hour or more before we reach our destination. Were we in a court with a reasonable judge and I threw my pocketbook at him don’t you agree I’d be exonerated for cause? Your vote will be gratefully accepted under Comments. Thank you.

When it comes to funerals, he is perfectly agreeable–you might almost say –delighted to accompany me because it is a guarantee there will be some good cheese things to eat minus a whole lot of chit-chat. People are subdued and all he needs to do is look glum, be appropriately uncommunicative in the presence of the bereaved, pat many backs sympathetically, excuse himself to smoke his pipe as often as he likes, and after consuming as many delicacies as possible, make a fast getaway before anyone notices he has devolved into Elmer Fudd.

However, when it comes to doctor’s appointments this same individual wants to leave early–very early–nearly an hour early because it’s okay to arrive early–very early–nearly an hour early. It’s okay if he has to sit and wait on some uncomfortable chair because–please don’t ask me why–he’s happy as Saturday night to be there, and–you’re probably way ahead of me–I’m not. Mind you I want to be on time—not early—not late—but on the dot—the stroke of the hour—give or take a few seconds.

When he has an appointment, exasperated sounds start the day before as my husband demands a departure time from rather than to our hide-away. When the day arrives this inquisition continues:

“Are you ready yet, darling? he asks and asks with a one minute interval on either side.

“It’s early–we have plenty of time,” I might say–or “I’m almost ready. I just need to brush my eyebrows, find my sunglasses, charge my cell phone.”

He finds this strangely maddening and so by the time we are set to take off together—earlier than I prefer, later than he can bear—neither of us is speaking except in monosyllables. He turns off the radio set to my favorite station and, because he refuses to wear a watch, asks me for the time. I pretend I haven’t heard and, according to him, were we in a court with a reasonable judge and he threw his briefcase at me…

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Pas de Deux


I have a thing about fire. Ask my ex-husband. The first time I had some money of my own, I put in a fire alarm system. He wouldn’t pay for one because he said, “Houses don’t burn down in Scarsdale.”

I already had an escape ladder, three fire extinguishers and a plan, sort of. We had one staircase and four small children. Of course I was insane during those years. This did not escape my husband’s notice.

“You’re crazy!” he would say.

He said it on Christmas Eve of 1963. It was the first Christmas all of my children were out of diapers—and I thought they were in need of a couple of pets.

“You’re crazy!” he said.

A golden retriever puppy and black and white kitty awaited me in the next town and after the children were asleep, I set forth on a snow and ice-packed road. As I neared an intersection, the car hit a patch of ice and pirouetted three hundred sixty degrees–slowly enough so that I could imagine my husband’s wrath if the car and I were totaled while on an unapproved mission.

My husband looked almost as irate when I returned and told me I needed to see a psychiatrist and then added, “but I’m not going to pay for one.”

A couple of hours after the pets were bedded down in the basement playroom and the presents, assembled and wrapped and I had joined my husband in bed, I heard my elder son’s voice in the hall calling to his older sister.

By now, everyone was awake except my husband. I threw on a robe and accompanied the two littlest down the stairs to what was to be much excitement and confusion. I suggested they just play with the pets and not unwrap presents until the sun came up and their father came down, but instead I put a medley of Christmas songs on the stereo to muffle any sounds that might penetrate the second story of our unburnable house.

As each gift was exposed, I took the paper and stuffed it into the fireplace. We were expecting guests for champagne at ten, others for dinner at four, and my husband would be in a far better mood if the nitty gritty of Christmas was out of sight upon his descent. I checked the damper. It was open. I lit the papers and, hurrah, the flames leaped up and out, Aargh, above and beyond the screen, scorching the mantle.

Not open.

I gathered my flock into the front hall and called up the stairs in the tone of someone announcing a delightful surprise.

“Fire,” I sang.

Pajama bottoms flapping, my husband sped down the stairs and into the living room; he had never moved this quickly before. By now the flames were subsiding while the smoke collected around the perimeter of the ceiling where it left a gray mark not to be painted till spring when we ‘d saved enough money. He opened the damper, the windows, the door, groaning, and shaking his head in disbelief.

Who could blame him? It wouldn’t do much good to explain –although I tried, and, in the telling, had a laughing fit–to the delight of the children and the mystification and disgust of their father who didn’t like laughing to begin with.

“You one crazy woman,” he pointed out without a verb.

Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I collapsed on the stairs while the children held the animals and danced.

My husband, a man of few words, muttered one of them several times, “Shit,” he said again and again, stepped over my body, climbed the stairs and disappeared into the bedroom.

My present husband builds a great fire but is on the surly side when one is requested. “A fire? We don’t need one and the kindling’s up in the corncrib,” he often says.

This time, the day after Christmas, he said, “Hell, the Abernathys won’t be here long enough to make it worthwhile.”

No question it would make the Abernathys feel welcome, something he was not entirely keen to do. I persisted and once logs, kindling and newspaper were perfectly piled and tucked around one another, he could hardly wait for the Abernathys to arrive and forthwith praise his flames.

Than he disappeared. As the Abernathy’s car came down the driveway, I called his name twice. And again. He didn’t answer so I did the sensible thing—I lit the fire. He had said it was good to go. Wonderful! The wood responded immediately. So gratifying. Flames leaped up and out, Aargh, above and beyond the screen.

My husband materialized—his face redder than the fire—choking out half his barracks dictionary. He bounded to the kitchen—he had never moved this quickly before—grabbed some oven mitts, returned to the living room, thrust his arms into the fire and moved the damper to the open position while shouting the other half of his marine-polished vocabulary in my direction.

Smoke filled the living room, somewhat disguising the scorched mantel, then moved up around the ceiling perimeters of several rooms where it left gray marks not be painted till spring when we’d saved enough money. We opened the front door to assist its departure only to discover the Abernathys standing there wreathed in gray. They coughed. We couldn’t invite them in or leave them on the doorstep and since the fire still smoldered we couldn’t go out for Chinese.

As I waved goodbye, I heard my husband, a man of many words, mutter one of them repeatedly before he disappeared into his office. “Shit,” he said again and again and again.

La plus que ça change, la plus que c’est le même–mot.

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