Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Defined by Love

The other day I was praising my lawn boy (aka the Superman I married) about the brick border he'd just finished placing around a new flowerbed.

"I knew you'd like it," he said, "because you really like defined spaces."

It was one of those moments that happens more and more often now that we've been married longer than we haven't been. One of those moments that proves that guy knows me better than I know myself at times.

He was exactly right about my yen for defined spaces, but I had never really thought about it. So I started to think about other things he has illuminated simply by living so intimately with me. Let's just say he's the mirror in my fun house.

I look better with longer hair. He's never actually said those words to me or offered anything but, "Hey, great haircut." when I come home from the salon. It is, after all, my hair. But over the years I've noticed that his most sincere compliments come when it is a certain length. And when I  look back at photos I realize he knows what he's talking about. It only makes sense that the person who looks at me the most would know how I look best.

I can work out harder. There is a certain sparkle that man gets in his eyes when I have pushed myself to my outer limits. He appreciates that many days leave me too exhausted to even contemplate purposeful exercise, but when I do hit it--and hit it hard--he is my biggest fan. My single greatest physical accomplishment was running a marathon at eight weeks pregnant on the day after my 40th birthday. I felt like I could never exercise again in my life and call it good. He high-fived me, gushed over my medal, and said simply, "I knew you could do it. No sweat." Which, weirdly, was exactly what I needed to hear in order to keep from retiring to the bon bons and elastic waistbands.

I stink at making pancakes. It's a known fact in our house that I don't make hot breakfasts. I don't want to completely spoil these children and I feel a cold daily breakfast is a good start. Plus my pancakes never turn out right. Superman, however, makes amazing pancakes and omelettes. It used to bother me that he one-upped me in the kitchen that way. Now I realize it is his way of simultaneously giving me the morning off and endearing himself forever to his poor, hungry children.

Sometimes being a good mom means walking away. This is possibly the biggest benefit to being married so long and having so many children. He can communicate--with one look--the following: "Sweetie, you are a great mother, but right now you need to get out of here and take a break. I've got this. Scram." I love him so much for this that at times I am moved to tears. Yes, a break is often exactly what I need to make things better for all of us.

Short cuts can be dangerous. I pride myself on being efficient. It's a form of self-preservation around here but I will confess that occasionally short cuts have brought trouble upon me. By contrast, Superman is the most thorough individual I think I've ever known. He reads instructions carefully, labels and files everything, and plots and plans with extreme attention to detail before he ever begins a project. This makes me crazy at times. But I can see that I need his craziness in order to balance out my own. I will admit a little scoffing on my part when he poured double the concrete to make a foundation for the kids' playset. I am convinced a tornado would not budge the thing. I would likely have picked up a pre-fab set at a big box store, put a couple of sandbags around the legs and called it good. But when I sit outside and watch the kids scamper on the slide and swings he built, the payoff of his careful planning makes me happy. Happy enough to admit that he was right.

As we walked inside the other afternoon I asked, "So what exactly made you realize that I like defined spaces?"

"Cemeteries," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"You always shudder and complain when we pass one without fences," he explained. "Like you're afraid the bodies are going to roll out of there or something. It's weird."

Exactly! It's so nice to have someone who understands me.

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