Whenever you’re having the sort of week that might be more endurable if you could spend the rest of it under your bed and away from keyboards, it’s cool just to post a single photo and declare you’ve fulfilled your blogging responsibilities for the week, right? That’s a remarkably wide divergence from my modus operandi, but I’m trying it just to see what happens. It’s my site and I’ll shirk if I want to.
This year our Valentine’s Day was a wash. Anne and I both had to work, which was time well spent in the sense that more work means less debt. The evening was equally unromantic. While I tended to a recurring family responsibility, Anne spent those same hours errand-running. Sacrificing that time frame meant far fewer interruptions in the rest of our weekend.
United at last at the end of the day, we exchanged gifts and red-tinged, heart-covered cards with jokes on them. Then we hurried up and fell asleep because we’re older now and we had a date to look forward to in the morning.
As some families celebrate Christmas not on the day of, so went Cupid’s cutesy custom for us.
It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.
Sometimes on these annual entries I’ll use a photo from our recent road trip, but this year’s edition of that much-needed break from the rat race won’t be till the end of August. The wait is killing us, as is Father Time, which is another reason I went retro and dug into our personal archives for a younger photo of the two of us. This week some 150 million FaceApp users are out there having all their selfies converted to elderly “Have You Seen This Nursing Home Escapee?” mug shots and letting overseas marketers data-mine them into so much digital chattel, while I’m here swimming upstream toward youthful times. But, y’know, for love.
It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate. We just got back from our 2018 road trip a few days ago and have yet to recover fully, but we refuse to let fatigue and battle damage hamper our personal festivities. As I’ve mentioned before, maybe it’s best not to brag too proudly, but fourteen years is no easy feat in a world of increasingly disposable relationships that’s maybe two or three steps away from inventing drive-thru divorces and frequent-philanderer reward programs.
Dinner this year was at a relatively new place down the street called Kaza Maza, quite possibly the first Moroccan/Mediterranean cuisine ever to grace our side of town. Other than some issues with the Coke Zero, we wouldn’t change a thing about the evening. ‘Twas a fine place to celebrate love and marriage and to forget about the part where we had to return to our day jobs this week.
Among the many deficiencies in my childhood, I regret Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was not required viewing in our house. In the days before VCRs, DVR, and the Internet, our family’s TV schedule was strictly divided between myself, my mom, and my grandma. I was allowed to pick stations each weekday morning before 9 a.m., after school, and on Saturday mornings. Sadly, the kindly Fred Rogers had the misfortune of airing opposite Grandma’s soap operas and/or game shows. By the time I discovered him while channel-flipping, I was somewhere in my preteen phase — too old to respond to his low-key gentility, not quite old enough to watch him ironically, and nowhere near the kind of adult who could appreciate what he did or how he connected to millions of other, better-off kids.
My wife Anne, on the other hand, used to watch him all the time. As a youngling she watched him, Sesame Street, and other PBS all-stars all the time. He spoke directly to kids, the Viewers at Home. He wasn’t there to bedazzle them with whimsy or lull them with escapist conflicts or sell them toys. He taught, he explained, he knew, he felt, he sympathized, he loved. For some kids he seemed like the only adult who every really got them, who even tried to get them. He fell just short of absolute godhood, but to many, calling him “father figure” doesn’t begin to describe his impact on their lives.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, then, is a rare instance of Anne taking me with her to the movies for once.
No, not the song. Egad, no. No no no no no.
Once again it’s the season for family making the visitation rounds for the sake and spirit of Christmas. Our largest family gathering every year is at my father-in-law’s place, where this year over three dozen relatives and plus-ones convened on Saturday morning, though just to brag for the record, Anne and I were among the three (3) people who could be bothered to arrived on time.
One of the major house rules is shoes come off at the front door, because older couples who think white carpet is a splendid decorating choice are finicky that way. By the time everyone arrived and got down to eating and mingling throughout the afternoon, the entryway was a cluttered war zone of castoff footwear. No heels, no Manolo Blahniks, nothing you’d wear to a shoeshine stand. Neither our families nor our gatherings see high rollers like that. Anyone who would object to such carefree shoe storage would be recognized right away as Not One of Us.
And yes, I see you number-crunchers out there scrunching your nose because you count two dozen pairs at most in the photo. Several more pairs were offscreen to my left. It’s also possible that a few of the toddlers were allowed to keep theirs on. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t looking because no one assigned me to Christmas Shoe Police duty.
The shoe pile is emblematic of our gatherings themselves, whether it’s holidays, kids’ birthday parties, or the annual reunions where we’re joined by a few extra strangers of shared blood. Everyone who’s a citizen of our tiny microcosm nation agrees to throw in together and make one big mess. At the end we agree to retrieve the parts of the mess that were our fault, one by one, family unit by family unit, until order is restored and my in-laws have their foyer back.
It’s Christmas. It’s what we do. In our finer moments it’s how we can be as a family in other matters as well.
Merry Christmas to you ‘n’ yours from us here at Midlife Crisis Crossover. May your days be merry and bright, may your celebrations of our Savior be blessed and comforting, and here’s hoping the circles you belong to will set aside their reservations and come together in happy, sloppy, love-filled pileups of their own.
Above is a teaser image from our 2017 road trip, courtesy of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where my lovely wife Anne and I had the pleasure of spending a few days and not getting murdered despite what you hear on TV.
We’ve known each other for nearly thirty years next month. We’ve been married for thirteen years as of this very Monday. Vacation photos and jazz hands are just two of the many cornerstones of our relationship — not the most important ones, mind you, and certainly not the hardest ones to achieve. But when your never-ending process of maintaining and streamlining the critical factors is kept on track, it frees up your mental space to indulge in the happier shared whims. If the process yields fun tangible souvenirs like this one, so much the better and the merrier.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: twelve years ago, before we went on vacation, Anne and I got married!
The guests had left earlier than expected and effectively canceled the scene where we were supposed to walk to my car through a hail of blown bubbles. After cleanup the bride and groom made a hasty retreat, dropped off all the gifts at home, then sped north to our honeymoon destination that was absolutely not an exotic tropical island resort, though portions of it bore faint resemblance to one in our humble eyes.
Ours was a most economical wedding experience partly by circumstance but mostly by preference. Neither of us comes from families in a position to drop several thousand bucks in one place on any object or experience ever. Anne’s dress, which I adored to pieces, was a great find at JCPenney. My attire was cobbled together piecemeal at Value City, as I’ve never owned a full, matching suit in my life, not even now in 2017. Our wedding rings were a Black Friday purchase I’d scored a month before I proposed. Everything from church to flowers to wedding planner to all the other mandatory expenses –- which I can’t remember because I was the groom –- added up to a few hundred at most. Anne and I already each had a failed marriage on our respective rap sheets and were absolutely in agreement and okay with taking the lo-fi route all the way. I promise you it can be done, kids.
Our big honeymoon plan was to revisit our old friend Lake Michigan, last seen on our 2002 road trip to Grand Rapids. And we knew at least one place on the Indiana side with a beach and a view.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in recent weeks we’ve been sharing the stories of our annual road trips that we undertook before I launched MCC in April 2012. Starting from the beginning and working our way forward, so far we’ve covered 1999 to 2003. Making the leap to 2004 first requires a digression for an important milestone.
A while back we reprinted the he-said-she-said tale of our relationship in Part One and Part Two of a special two-part miniseries. After seventeen years of knowing each other as classmates, coworkers, neighbors, best friends, and eventually an official Dating Couple, in July 2004 Anne and I became husband and wife and our world was never the same, except for the part where we still did road trips every year.
The following is a retelling of our blessed, frequently awkward wedding day, a time of joy and music and accidents, two weeks before we embarked on that year’s fun, frequently awkward journey. The following essay was previously shared with a small circle of friends but has been given the “special edition” treatment for archiving here on MCC.
Usually we’re out of town on one of our road trips when our anniversary passes, but today was the first time in years that we were in-state for the occasion. We appreciate the inventors of the calendar finally working out the timing in our favor. It was nice to mark the occasion with a nice meal and greeting cards exchanged on our own turf for a change.
Behold history in the making: the first cheesecake I’ve ever made myself. ‘Twas the holiday season, so I figured why not.
This is how everyone spends their tenth wedding anniversary, right? Because my wife and I sure wouldn’t want to look out of place or anything.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: representing the saga of How We First Met. Part One has the detailed intro that needs little paraphrasing. If you’ve stumbled across this half first, you’re doing it wrong. Click the link in the first sentence, catch up to this moment, then rejoin us with your Back button. Better reading that way, trust me.
[The following two-part entry is a 2002 essay written tag-team style with the best friend who would later become my wife, originally composed for friends who’d wanted to know how we met. Original posting dates and authorship are appended to each chapter for reference, especially for those who’ve never read my wife’s writing.
Though these passages are now eleven years old and cry out for rewriting, I’ve decided to present this encore generously intact, albeit with mild elements of special-edition Lucas-izing. I deleted one pejorative, two bits of slander, two beyond-personal items, one misuse of “literally” my conscience wouldn’t abide, and a belabored Bloom County reference that made zero sense after the preceding edits.
I’m revisiting this for a reason. More about that at the end of Part Two.]
Taken out of context, this photo of a happily armed woman and some dork with a bowling ball could be misconstrued as a future submission to awkwardfamilyphotos.com with a caption questioning the decision to don summer wear in December.
At left in the 2012 Metropolis Superman Celebration T-shirt, my wife is holding a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. At right in the hard-to-see shirt sporting the periodic-table block for adamantium, that’s me toting the bowling ball given to Ralphie’s old man for Christmas. The backdrop is the living room from the original A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, open year-round for visitors like us.
Some vacationers might spend their time off getting drunk and sunburned on an exotic beach. That’s not who we are.
We’ve known each other for nearly twenty-six years, but Wednesday marks our ninth wedding anniversary. When the one you love is willing to pose with you without a whit of hesitation, surrounded by this much pop-culture ephemera, confident in the knowledge that we agree on the most important things in life while sharing a variety of commonalities in the Department of Ultimately Unimportant Things, you realize you’re ridiculously blessed beyond what you deserve. You also thank the Lord that He’s in charge and not Joss Whedon, or else something tragic would’ve happened five minutes after the photo was taken.
Happy Anniversary, m’lady. Can’t wait to see our vacation photos at age 70. 🙂
And now for something completely different.
In honor of my wife’s birthday, I present high art. Wait, no, scratch that — just haiku. And not the great kind with birds or flowers or natural waterways. Sorry.]