Every now and then, I wake up and wonder who the guy is in my bed and why there is a minivan parked in my driveway.
The guy happens to be my husband of 21 years, and he drives the minivan in question because he’s a classical musician who plays timpani and other unwieldy percussion instruments. I love the guy, and our teenager, and our cute little house in suburbia. But sometimes I do wonder how the hell I wound up in this life.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my life; it’s just not what I pictured. When I was in college, if you’d told me that someday I’d be married to someone who was kind of shy, I would have laughed out loud. If you’d said that someday I would count gardening and cooking among my hobbies (rather than, say, world travel), I would have guffawed. And if you’d told me that every now and then the high point of my week would be watching Modern Family on Wednesday nights, I would have thought it was downright pathetic.
Then life happened.
I found that when the chips are down, there’s a certain serenity in watching things grow or putting together a nice meal. I discovered that it’s not so easy to save for your kid’s college and take fabulous trips abroad at the same time. I learned that when you become a caregiver, you run out of energy to set the world on fire.
And I realized that witty men who banter about politics aren’t always very nice.
My husband Joel and I met on a blind date. He had beautiful brown eyes, a sweet smile and a terrible haircut.
On paper, we were an unlikely pair.
Joel grew up in South Shore, where he had attended a traditional shul. He came from a large family, some branches of which have been in the U.S. for 150 years. He lived at home and commuted to a public college for both of his degrees. He loves the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Mozart. He orders his steaks well-done and won’t eat anything seared, raw or deep-fried. He is a crossword puzzle wizard who can re-wire a light fixture and collects antique pens. He’s quiet until you get to know him. He is a morning person and a teeny bit of a slob.
I grew up in the NW suburbs and attended a Reform Temple. I come from a small family and am a first-generation American on my dad’s side. I went away to private schools for both of my degrees, spent my junior year in England, and had internships in Washington, D.C. I love AC/DC, Simon & Garfunkel and Prokofiev. I order my steaks medium-rare and crave beef carpaccio, seared tuna and a piece of fried chicken on July 4th. I have no patience for puzzles and can barely change a light bulb. I tend to talk first and think later. I am a night person and a teeny bit of a neat freak.
Doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven…but it is.
Which is why I urge young Jews who are looking for love to be open to surprises. Sometimes you’ll find your beshert is someone you never would have expected. It turns out that mine does not relish political debate, yearn to chair committees, read The New Yorker or make a boatload of money. But he does look great in a tux, visit my parents when I am out of town, sing to me and cover my hair with his hands when it’s snowing.
Eight years ago, a group of women colleagues were pondering how you knew it was right to get married instead of simply living together. We decided we wanted a man’s perspective, so I called Joel and asked him why he’d wanted to get married? He said he’d have to think about that. When I came home that night, he had written me a note:
Why I wanted to marry Linda:
I might not have thought through all this thirteen and a half years ago, but this is what I feel now.
By getting married, I wanted to make a public statement that:
I love this person more than anything.
I want us to spend the rest of our lives together.
I am willing to make the commitments that marriage brings.
I am willing to assume the risks that married life offers.
I am willing to start a family.
Marriage is like buying a tree. You plant it, care for it, hope it grows, and when it does, you enjoy its beauty. Living together is more like appreciating the tree across the street. While you can enjoy it, you aren’t as invested in its growth or well-being. It is someone else’s tree.
This is probably the real reason I like gardening: Now we celebrate our wedding anniversary by planting a new rosebush or something else beautiful in our yard.
A few weeks ago, I had a terrible day. The weather was awful, my commute was lengthened by construction, the stock market had taken a dive, and I’d had one aggravating meeting after another. When I stepped off the train, exhausted and discouraged, there was my husband, waiting for me on the platform, under an enormous golf umbrella. In the car, he had a Diet Coke waiting for me—along with a glass of wine.
Diet Coke: 50 cents.
Glass of Pinot Grigio: three dollars.
A spouse who Gets It: priceless.