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December 26, 2004

Doin' the deed

Thirty-one years ago, I came here to Burntmattress, Michigan because it was the county seat and I had delusions of journalism which could only be assuaged by becoming a reporter, allowing me the public disgrace which pertains thereto.

That lasted about 4½ years, with me running amok at city hall, the city cops and the sheriff's department, district and circuit court, general assignment writing, political coverage, and a daily opinion column running six days a week. I also wrote obituaries, rewrote news releases, weather reports, blurbs for “On the Inside” (the little index thing on Page 1), and the occasional item taken over the phone from people just dying to tell the Women’s Editor about their pet cat or their doily collection. It averaged roughly two million words a year.

Twelve years later, I actually moved to the town I pretended to have been covering, suffering from delusions of becoming a landlord. The house I bought was built some time between 1850 and 1875, and like most structures at least one ceiling had to be lowered, to hide the heating ducts that fed the one upstairs apartment. That one was mine.

Up there I wrote, worked on a series of projects involving vintage radio programs from the 1930s through 1960s, and I dealt with the endless parade of college kids and young families who came and went after a year's stay. The few neighbors I met stayed pretty much to themselves, and I did the same, but one woman living next door shared an interest in reading, so the few times I spoke to her, we talked about books.

She and her husband and three kids were renters themselves, and I scarcely noticed when they suddenly weren't there any more, moved to God knew where. This was a small town at heart and I guess I should have noticed those things. But they got away, and I didn't think much about them except for the way she always had at least one if not more books within arm’s-reach.

I think it was two years later when I saw her again, coming out of a grocery store as I was going in. We talked, just a little. Nothing new on my side, but for her she’d shed a husband and gained a life. She seemed happy and I was glad for her, but I had supper to eat and first I had to go find it, so I went into the store and she went away once again.

Two weeks later, she called me at my apartment. It turned into a 90-minute phone call. And a few days later, another. And after a while she came over and I discovered that my cats both liked her, and she in turn liked them. A couple of more visits passed. And after that we started Getting Serious, and it's been 14 years now with me wondering what hit me, and she just giving me The Stare if I ask.

I was the one who was the romantic. I proposed twice over three years before she finally said yes. And the only thing I asked was not to bear my child but to simply bear my name. She didn't want that at first. Too much paperwork (and it is).

We hadn't set a date or Anything Final. There were other things to take care of, like breaking it to my parents. Which happened about December 10, 2002, when I told them a story relating to “Raisin a Christmas Memory.” I'd written the piece as a holiday item for a message board I was posting at, and one of the regulars there (a teacher) wound up using it in her 6th-grade class in Massachusetts.

The kids in turn liked the story so much that they made it a class project to illustrate it. And I got those drawings in the mail, just a few days before the annual Christmas dinner with my folks. My eldest niece, Roofer Babe, her husband the roofer, myself and SWMBO and her son (then called the 17-Year-Old Plague-bearer), and my folks. Roofer Babe is four years younger than SWMBO, so there is less of a generation gap than many such cases. And there we all were, at a Red Lobster, as I told the story of those kids and their drawings—as I drew a blank stare from my father.

Just about the only thing he agreed with me about was that there was an outhouse on that property. And the last name of the family. And that it had been a group from the church (where he has been an elder since large birds filled our skies). But that was okay, I was used to that by now, so I wasn't exactly crushed when my story about those kids went over like serial farts in church. That's nice. Pass the rolls.

Well, almost like that.

As it happened, my lady was about to become a grandmother the following summer, and at the time we thought her daughter was carrying twins. So I opened my face to say SWMBO had an announcement—and lightning quick, Roofer Babe piped up with, “You’re getting married!”

Well, no, actually, I said, flustered and riled, because that was the only news these people actually wanted to hear. And although they were polite about the grandmother stuff, they still had their brains stuck on “The Big M.”

So that was Saturday. We made it through the rest of the dinner, but by the end of the week we’d spent hours on the internet, researching the various marriage laws both here and in Ohio.

See, Michigan requires blood tests and waiting periods, and in our county (thanks to a halfwit Democrat judge) an added bureaucratic layer of mandatory marriage counseling classes. Which made no sense whatsoever to me, because after more than seven years together we were both still together and had not managed to kill each other. Silly me, I took that as a positive sign.

So we did the web search and wound up choosing Lucas County, Ohio, and at approximately 3:15 p.m. on Boxing Day, 2002, we were legally wed in the city of Toledo, Ohio, by a nice womam minister who actually mentioned God and actually talked about commitment and love and devotion. I got misty-eyed. My voice dropped about six octaves. Yes. I really really do.

It’s been two years now, and those twins everyone was expecting turned out to be one boy, 9 pounds and 1 ounces of him. He’s definitely the size of a 3-year-old (and not yet even two)—so I figure we have a future basketball star in the clan, but hey, what do I know about babies. All I know is that I would never in this world have missed the chance to see the look on my lady’s face when we went to the hospital and she held him for the first time.

There's a moral in here somewhere if I only look hard enough for it. Maybe it’s one like, Don’t show first drafts to teachers in Massachusetts. Or maybe—just maybe—don’t be ashamed to stand there getting misty-eyed in a Toledo courthouse as you finally say the words making it official on how you’ve been feeling all along.

Hey, I knew how tough this was going to be for her. The name-change part, I mean. I even offered to change both our names to Mr. and Mrs. Yodar Critch, but there wasn’t time.

So this one’s for you, darlin’. A look back on this, our second anniversary.

They tell me that's the Paper Anniversary. I’ll even give you the paper to print this out.

Posted by Weaselteeth at December 26, 2004 04:37 AM


Awww, you brought tears to my eyes, WT!

Happy Second Anniversary, you two! ;D

(But I think one year is paper.)

Posted by: LadyBug at December 26, 2004 07:07 AM

Hey, congratulations WT!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at December 27, 2004 05:44 AM

Loved it! May you and SWMBO (lol) have a wonderful New Year. Sorry I missed Christmas. As always I'm a day late and a dollar short, well a few days late now. ;) Thanks for the link to the new site and the special discount. Finally, I get something good out of those ill-fitting blue clothes ;) lol
I'll pop in and read when I can.

Hugs to you both and

Happy New Year,

Posted by: Jeannie at December 28, 2004 08:16 AM

OOOOPS!!! and Happy Anniversary as well!!!! (I meant to say that the first time lol)

Posted by: Jeannie at December 28, 2004 08:18 AM