Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Being married is . . .

Last night, after they’d been bathed and dressed in PJs, my two kids snuggled close for book-time. They were in the thrall of a veritable lovefest. This time of night, I’ve noticed, predisposes the kids to one of two moods -- unredeemable, snarling hatefulness or expansive, exquisite elation. You can guess which I prefer.

“Oh, my little petuti!” exclaimed Primo, kissing the top of his sister’s head. He made up this mysterious nickname for her a few weeks ago and both of them are tremendously pleased with it.

“Petuti, who is your favorite person?” he asked in cooing tones.

“Humpty Dumpty,” she replied without having to think about it.

Primo smiled, forgiving her ignorance. He rephrased the question.

“Who do you love the most?”

“PRIM-O!” she shouted, “You best my friend.”

Primo wrapped his arms around her.

“When I grow up, do you want to marry me?”

“Yes,” she replied, solemnly.

“When I grow up, I will marry you,” he decided. And then it occurred to him that she, being only two years old, might not know the meaning of matrimony, so he added: “Being married is when you spend all your time with somebody.”

At first I was a little disappointed that this was the takeaway my son has gleaned from the example set by David and I. No mention of love or sacrifice or loyalty or happiness. Just a commitment of hours – many, many hours. As if we were two roommates in a rent-controlled apartment on some cherry block in the West Village who can’t afford to move out. Or co-workers with adjoining cubicles.

But then I realized there were many worse conclusions Primo might have drawn from his four years with David and I. It could have been, “Being married is when you spend all your time yelling at somebody because they never wash the dishes or sort the recycling correctly or do their share or cherish you enough or show enough affection or make you feel beautiful.” It could have been, “Being married is when you willingly sentence yourself to life without parole in an emotional prison.”

After a moment of contemplation, I concluded it wasn’t a half-bad description if you take “time” to mean eternity, til death do us part and beyond. Neither was it a half-bad reflection on our marriage. Its not the stuff Shakespeare and Danielle Steele is made of, but who cares? I’ll take reality, with all its pockmarks, any day. The fact that my son loves his sister more than anyone else in the wide world and expresses that love by telling her he wants to marry her makes me think that David and I, the unit, aren’t the colossal mess I sometimes worry we are. And when I tell this story to David later on, he agrees. And that, my friends, is romance, married-with-children-style.