One morning last week, on a day Ned was in town, I came into the kitchen at god-awful thirty to start the coffee, breakfast and the slog of getting my daughter fed, dressed and bundled off to school. I found the kitchen nightlight pulled out of its socket and sitting on the counter.
First, you’re thinking: kitchen nightlight? It’s just one of the sweet little things that remains in our home from early parenthood, a beacon of comfort in case the baby crawls around in the dark at all hours.
I had an immediate and vivid certainty about why the light sat there on its side, and how it got there, but I plugged it back in and tested it, and it worked. So there.
The next morning I walked in to find the same thing sitting in the same way and I threw myself right into the investigation, turning on Ned.
Why do you keep taking out the nightlight? I charged.
He backed up a step and stammered. The bulb is burned out and I set it there to remind . . .
To remind me??? I cut in, quick, before he could even recover.
Because he frequently does things like this, you see, to help me out. If we run out of coffee, he leaves the empty canister conspicuously on the counter to call out to me. If his shaving creme is kaput, he leaves the empty aerosol perched on the rim of the bathroom vanity so I’ll notice while I parade through freshening up his towels and sorting his laundry. Some things, you see, just don’t have to be said, let alone done, by anybody but me.
I was going to replace it, he defended himself, but I don’t know where you keep the bulbs.
Where I keep the bulbs?
I pointed him straightaway to the closet two feet from where he stood, the closet devoted almost entirely to lightbulbs of every size, wattage and sustainability, a pharaoh’s tomb of lightbulbs nearly every one of which he bought and put on the shelf.
My first h-u-s-b-a-n-d (Beware: It can be very satisfying to say that), my first h-u-s-b-a-n-d- ran a hotel and he was never home. It’s understandable: we were a childless couple “married” to our careers. Now I never leave home and I feel like I run the hotel! How did it turn out like this? How did the whole thing spin a 180 on me?
Of course I know how, but I still don’t know why. I don’t know why to some people “clearing the table” means stacking the dirty plates on the counter then firing up a video game, and to others it means rinsing them off and loading the dishwasher. I don’t know why. I can never know why because there is no why to how things are done or even when they get done. All I have a handle on is the who. And the only who I have a handle on is me.
There is a mysterious symmetry, a cosmic boomerang, at work in our lives. It delivers us smack back into the scene of every crime from which we’ve ever fled, only with a comic twist, a change in perspective that widens our vision and illuminates, if we’re awake, a tiny nightlight of wisdom on the way to the refrigerator at 3 a.m.
Look who ended up in the hotel business! I run a fine hotel, and most days, I even like doing it. The days my lightbulb is on.
Join me for more fun with marriage all week. And just for grins, here’s your chance to win an autographed copy of my book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by leaving a comment on yesterday’s post. The winner will be drawn after 12 noon PST on Sunday, Feb. 3. Good luck!