Archive for the ‘wedded bliss’ Category

Heather and Justin

One week from today, son Justin is getting married.

And if you think there has been anything else on my mind of late, you would be mistaken.

While blindly slamming together a bunch of mind-numbing newspaper information the other day for all the people who have nothing better to do than read about local news things (like that’s important), I was concentrating heavily on all the things in my life that have caused this much distraction. I came up with a list of life’s highlights and lowlights, but they all paled in comparison, emotional reaction-wise, to my little boy signing his life away to the lovely Heather.

And I mean that with all the affection and appreciation a doting father-in-law-to-be can have for the beautiful, sweet young woman who is not only the reason I am adding a hyphen-filled title to my dad resume, but also, for some reason, thinks this guy’s the one.

Kids. They’ll never learn.

Anyway, I am surprised at myself for the level of emotion I am feeling about this wedding. Not only because I’ll be in a tuxedo and have a captive audience doting over me as the father of the groom, but also because I’m gonna look real good and probably garner the majority of the compliments.

I simply can’t wait.

These emotions are beginning to play off of one another. I get sad when I think that it seems like only yesterday my little boy was trying to plug the car keys into the electrical outlet, or translating for adult ears the gobblety-speak of his younger sister, or announcing, from his high chair, that the toaster just popped (“Toot,” he’d trumpet), and then mash a piece of dry, slightly warmed white bread between gooey moist fingers, getting more of it on his face than in it.

Hopefully this latter habit will not reappear next Saturday during the singing of “The Bride Cuts the Cake.” If there’s one thing I hate about weddings, it’s people who still think it’s funny to mash cake into another person’s face. But, then, I have also always hated old movies that contain a pie fight. Never understood the humor of one person hitting another person in the face with food. And I have felt this way my whole life — long before I became a fuddy-duddy.

OK. That was a tangent. I’m over it.

I’ve been thinking about all the things fathers are supposed to teach their sons before they head off to Marriageville, and how many of these things we have yet to talk about.

If I’ve taught him one thing, it’s make friends with the bartender. All else in life, I have learned, is an off-shoot of this one essential lesson. If I have taught him anything else, it was by pure luck or keen observation on his part.

I realize it’s been 30 years, which seems like plenty of time to instill all of my fatherly knowledge (which would only take a few quick moments anyway), but somehow the years slipped by so quickly.

Here’s a piece of advice: The years slip by quickly. If you think they’re going fast now, you — being the roller coaster afficionado that you are — are gonna love the next two decades. Hang on tightly and keep both arms inside the ride. This tidbit, I have to believe, I have mentioned in the past. The memory is shot. It can’t hurt to mention it again.

Also, the memory is shot.

Pay attention more than I did. That’s probably the next best piece of advice I can offer. Regret sucks, it comes C.O.D. in the back of a giant dump truck, gets deposited right on top of your head, it hurts like a sonofagun, and never, ever goes away.

Be mindful of your regret, there, sonny boy. That’s what I would have wanted to hear 30 years ago. I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the advice at the time, because, I wrongly thought, I knew more about the world then than everyone else in it would ever know.

I didn’t realize it would take until this very day right now today before I would know more about the world than everyone else in it would ever know.

Take a lot of pictures. One of my favorite advances in the world of technology has been the making easier of picture taking. Everything nowadays has a camera in it. We no longer need to drop film off at the drug store and wait two weeks for our pictures to come back. We can grab our phones from our pockets, snap a quick shot of the baby and the kitty sleeping on top of one another in the sunlight pouring through the nursery window, and, with the quick flick of a couple of fingers on a couple of buttons, we can share this photo with everyone in the world.

I grew up in an era when the option to request double prints was considered a technological breakthrough. Today, we go “click” and the next thing we know, it’s on CNN.

Anyway, take a lot of photos. When you visit the old people in your life (namely, me), photos will be the best way to fill in the awkward pauses in the conversation — which are going to happen, once we discuss what I had for lunch that day (which I won’t remember) and why it is I found my teeth in my slipper.

The great things that happen in marriage are the bookmarks in our lives. Our vacations, our big home renovations, our ridiculous purchases. They stick out above the other pages, they mark the stuff we did before and after that great event. And they hold our place until the next bookmark comes along.

Write the year — this is very important — get out a Sharpie and write at the top of each bookmark what year it came into your life. You’ll be disappointed — I certainly am — when you are unable to remember which thing you did first and what year that was.

I have no idea what year Karen and I did a complete gut-job renovation on the downstairs of our house. Living room and dining room completely torn out and done over. But what I did do, when we were installing the new floor, was, I grabbed the Sharpie and wrote the year and our names (circling all of it with a giant heart; awwwwww) in the middle of the cement slab. I took its photo and then we covered it with the new flooring.

I can’t tell you what year it was, but I can tell you I have a photo of it. Somewhere.

Laugh all the time. Life is hilarious and a lot more enjoyable when viewed that way. Some of my favorite bookmarks are simply the times Karen and I have laughed so hard that I started squeaking, which forced her to laugh harder and start making monkey noises, which forced us both to stop making any sounds at all as the air in our bodies was forced from our lungs.

Finally, hug your dad. He’s thrilled and proud and beside himself and fragile, suffering from emotion. He’s also no longer the only married guy in the family. He’s been handing out the hugs for 30 years now and could use a break.

He could also use a hug. It’s your turn, son.


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It’s not that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, the little lady and me — the Wilma to my Fred; the Marge to my Homer; the Posh to my Becks.

Although, traditionally, we haven’t gone overboard. We never go overboard, so traditionally nontraditional are we.

We (thankfully) don’t need a random day in the middle of a random month during what normally is a long, horrible winter to remind one another that the home and life (with its requisite aromas and noises) we share in this one life we have been granted is gooey sweet and flowery aromatic and teddy bear cozy and hoodie-footie snuggly and over-priced diamond ankle bracelet worthy and not to be traded for all the bon-bons in Brussels or tea in China or eggplant in parmesan.

We are fortunate enough, the Juliet to my Romeo, to realize this every day of our tethered existence and therefore are spared the responsibility of losing our minds at the last second, trying to figure out what to buy her because it’s Valentine’s Day and if I don’t get her something sweet or smelly or cozy or snuggly that’ll mean I’m the worst husband ever and that very suggestion is just plain laughable.

Every day is Valentine’s Day for the Little Red-Haired Girl and this Charlie Brown.

Oh, she gets candy and cards (one from the cat and one from me) on every card-buying occasion, including Valentine’s Day. And she’ll get the requisite flowers/candy/plush toy/can of furniture polish, whichever costs the least, lasts the longest, and takes the least effort.

And I’m taking her bowling this weekend because football season is now over (a fact about which we have spoken some but not at great length since her team lost and my team failed to), and I need to remind her there are still sporting events at which she is more adept at kicking my butt. (Having yet again eliminated fanmanship of professional football teams.)

Also, there’s a lot less to do on the weekends now that there’s no football to stare at for hours on end. This Ralph might as well take his Alice out of the house to interact with other humans.

Maybe even have conversation with one another.

That last part is optional. I just threw it in because I was seven words short.

Every day is a roller coaster of love at Chez Mattison. To single out one day on the calendar would make all the others pale in comparison. And that’s not fair. There are no pale days for my Ellen and her Portia.

During a commercial break the other night, I asked the Edith to my Archie if she could remember all the wonderful Valentine’s Day things we have done for one another, lo these many decades, in celebration of the love we share.

She paused in her search for scars and bugs on the cat and reminded me of the year I bought her a tennis bracelet and dinner at a lovely restaurant in Saratoga Springs.

I had forgotten about the tennis bracelet (which goes around the ankle instead of the wrist; a decision I will never understand but with which I am in complete agreement). Probably because that was the last day I saw it. It’s on loan to the Gift Hall of Fame.

I didn’t remember that the bracelet year also involved dinner out. That’s surprising to me. That seems like a lot more effort that I am capable of or interested in. That could have been two gifts spread out over two years, instead of both being burned at the same time. Obviously wasn’t thinking that year. Or, I did something horribly husbandish and felt the need to make up for it.

Like that’s possible.

The particular Valentine’s Day of which I speak is so ingrained in the memory of the Veronica Lodge to my Reggie Mantel that after reminding me of it, she wasn’t even sure she was right.

“I thought you gave me the bracelet and then we went out to dinner,” she said. “Maybe I’m wrong.”

I asked her if we were living in our current house during this volcano of romance and she didn’t know that either.

All of which, I immediately decided, lets me from now until the end of time off the Valentine’s Day hook.

She doesn’t remember when I gave her one of the romantic-est non-Christmas and non-birthday gifts I have ever gone out of my way to have a store clerk pick out and wrap for me. This can only mean one thing: I can stick with cards, flowers and candy for the rest of my life.

What does she care? She won’t remember anyway. Inattentiveness can be very sexy.

OK. Maybe I’ll go the extra distance this week and make her a meat loaf in the shape of a heart and frost it with mashed potatoes. (Maybe a couple of asparagus spears to replicate the whole sappy Cupid arrow thing.)

That’s actually an inspired idea. The perfect gift to remind the one I love how much she means to me. It’s cheap, will take very little effort, and all the heavy thinking is already done.

Nothing says “I love you” more than new and creative ways to take the easy way out. Topped by an over-saturation of fat and calories meant to keep the “love” in the “love handles.”

Yep. This Ozzie still knows the direct route to his Harriet’s heart.

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Being born and raised in upstate New York has had its benefits.

For example, when it forgets to snow during the winter, this can be an enjoyable region of the country to call home.

On those increasingly rare occasions when the ground is covered by snow from November to March, however, the opposite is true.

Being born and raised in eastern Massachusetts, I imagine, also has its highs and lows. Nifty accents and access to a gigantic city being a couple that come to mind.

The wind beneath my wings knows more about this than I, having done this very thing.

Another one of the highs in her life, it should (but won’t) go without saying, came when she crossed (and eventually merged) paths with this upstate New Yorker.

This union has more often than not worked itself into a tolerable if not occasionally satisfying lifetime commitment. It has its ups and downs, but those directions are opposites, so they are to be expected.

Thankfully, none of the downs have been my fault. A fact to which the love of my life would agree the opposite is unmistakably true.

A major sporting event this weekend that happens to involve our two favorite teams has had me thinking of just how many opposites the two of us have brought into this relationship from the two separate lives we once lived. I have been thinking of these things in the off chance the relationship doesn’t survive the football game.

This is only a partial list; I can’t remember them all. But when we were growing up:

We were Ivory; she was Dove. (We are now both Dove, as Ivory eventually turned my skin to oak.)

We were Fantastik; she was Windex. (We are now Windex, as neither of us cleans windows, so it stopped mattering.)

We were Hellmann’s; she was Cains. (We are now Hellmann’s because I do most of the mayonnaise shopping and cooking and Hellmann’s rules. Unless we’re walking on the complete opposite side of the street and decide to break out the Miracle Whip. The Miracle Whip is a fine product that stands by itself, but please don’t for one second try to tell me it’s a straight-up swap for mayonnaise. True, they both can be substituted for one another in most of the same recipes, but they are entirely different beasts; one being much more of an acquired taste than the other. And none of which excuses the use of Cains.)

We were Viva; she was Bounty. Today, we’re Brawny pick-a-size. Marriage is about compromise.

Growing up in a rural community, we were raised with Scottissue. Growing up in the suburban hub of one of the nation’s largest cities, she was Charmin. Charmin has become a product I find difficult to keep from mocking simply because of its TV commercials with the cartoon dingle bears. The commercials are embarrassing, if you ask me. I wouldn’t be able to go through the line at the grocery with this item in my cart, knowing it is marketed nationally as the one that cartoon bears rely upon to prevent a velcro nightmare.

Also, she was over the roll; we were under the roll. Going under the roll is an inexplicable decision that is no longer a part of my life. Iwas long ago shown the light and can never imagine a life any different.

We were StarKist; she was Bumble Bee. We were chunk light; she was solid white.

My, how times have changed. Today, I’m the solid white and she’s the chunk light. Brands no longer play a role, as price is the deciding factor when Ibring home the canned tuna (and mix it into the Hellmann’s.)

We were Colgate; she was Crest. Today, we are not exclusive. When the old tube (squeezed exclusively from the bottom) is empty, a new brand with a new flavor is worked into the mix.

Keeping the marriage sparks jumping, one toothpaste flavor at a time.

We were Skippy; she was Peter Pan or Jiff (doesn’t really matter). Once she told me she wasn’t Skippy, I lost interest in her ability to judge peanut butter. There is only one true peanut butter. Please.

We were soda; she was tonic. This is a regional thing that thankfully disappeared shortly after I swept her off her feet and moved her to Green Acres.

Also a regional designation: She called them elastics. We (and by “we” I mean the remainder of humanity) called them rubber bands.

We were Gulden’s spicy brown; she was French’s yellow. Today, there are so many mustards available,Ihave no idea what we are. Ido know there are several mustards in our lives (and none of them yellow). Can never have enough mustard variety. They are all pretty tasty.

Can’t say that about ketchup. Ketchup has pretty much remained ketchup. We were DelMonte; she was Heinz. Now we’re store brand. It’s ketchup.

We also occasionally come from the opposite side of the field when it comes to our sports teams. (See Mets vs. Red Sox, 1986. Just don’t say you heard it from me.) One of the things we enjoy sharing is our love of sporting events; chief among these, professional football. But here again, she being from the Bay State and me being from the Empire State, we still find occasion to go our separate ways. This weekend is no different.

On Sunday evening, while she’s screaming at the television because of this stupid play and that dumb call and this referee who is obviously biased and that announcer who apparently likes one team more than the other, I’ll be slumped on the floor in a corner, facing the wall, shivering like a scorned chihuahua in February, probably rocking back and forth, in a distant, dark room somewhere upstairs, until my Monday morning work alarm goes off.

Being a life-long fan of one of the two remaining NFL playoff teams, Ihave spent the past two weeks battling anxiety and nerves over the outcome of the final game of the season, knowing full well — and completely ignoring the fact — that no matter what I say or do, I cannot affect the final score. I am not, however, going to tempt fate.

But that doesn’t detract from the fact that in the living room chair right next to me sits a person who, through no fault of her own, was born and raised — and eventually plucked from — the land of the other team.

She has thus far handled the situation well.

I have not.

She has said she can’t lose, because even though that other team from her home “state” is her first choice, she has become a fan of the team for which I live and breathe and die (and bleed blue), so she will be happy no matter who wins.

And I am most assuredly the opposite.

I might need a Kleenex. She’ll probably hand me a Puffs.

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The way I interpreted it:

In the side yard — a narrow flagstone path between the privacy fence and the side of the house, where the outdoor kitchen stadium will one day arise from its present-day ashes (and weeds) — is a large dumpster’s worth of entrails harvested from Chez Mattison’s original kitchen, as well as from every other nook and cranny in the house and adjacent out-building.

Old cabinetry; boxes and odd-shaped Styrofoam chunks that once cuddled new appliances; various bags of dirt and bottles of spray stuff and rusted cans of unrecognizable wall color and random important pieces of wood and countless other representatives of merchandise once thought vital to sustaining life in our little corner of the world have been collected with abandon and piled in this once proud and vibrant alley.

It is here, after work on Wednesday, where I would find myself, I was certain, rooting around for the boxes that once contained the Roman shades that, for a brief time, occupied (with magnificent — if not surprising — laser-like plumb) one of the kitchen windows.

The boxes would be easy enough to find, although pawing across the top of the garbage heap was guaranteed to prove a bit more of a challenge. It was the packing materials, like the bags that once held the screws, the instructions, the paper insert that described the contents, and the various other things stuffed into a typical carton of merchandise, that would be more difficult to wrangle. I was sure of it.

I threw them away late Tuesday because I didn’t realize that once the shades were hanging in the window and working properly, they would have to be taken down, returned to the store, and swapped for shades that are 1 inch wider.

One inch wider. That’s “one.” With a “wuh.”

All that work to get them in the window, space them evenly, carry the ladder back into the garage, locate the remote, and get back to the ninth viewing of The Sopranos, Season 1 — all for nothing.

During the installation process, I didn’t realize the wind beneath my wings had brought home the wrong size shades. They fit. They kept out the daylight. What. One chore checked off the list; 12 more remaining … to be ignored for the time being.

I didn’t realize this because for one brief moment on Tuesday — when those shades were no longer wedged uncomfortably yet securely up my to-do list — it slipped my mind that no matter how difficult or effortless the project, I remain, until death do I part, severely married.

A main difference between a wedding and a funeral (I rarely, if ever, believe with all my heart) is that at one of them, the guest of honor gets to eat.

Also, the Hokey Pokey. But that’s about it.

See, I think one of the roadblocks in the whole marriage thing stems from the eventual realization that there will always be someone else in your space, under your feet, messing with your head, hiding your stuff, driving you to the edge, and making you do hard things twice (or more than twice), and griping about how you handle all of it.

I should have thoroughly read the instructions before installing the wedding ring. I was young and foolish. I mean smitten. Also, hungry.

But that doesn’t explain everything.

I have been going through the marriage handbook — skimming through the remaining pages and paragraphs that have not been entirely blacked out by a magic marker — trying to find where it says the wife has the right to make the husband repaint the living room a slightly different shade of green, even though he just finished painting it the shade of green the wife had previously approved.

Or why the husband has to hang the laundry room shelves more than once, even though the first time he hung them he did so in wife-approved locations.

Or why, as we fast-forward to today, the Roman shades have to come out of the window, back into the box, and off to their place of origin because someone in the marriage who is not me brought home the wrong thing.

It does not pay to complete tasks while the wind beneath my wings is off at work and I am home, on a day off from work, doing things I much prefer to do by myself so as to cut down on the number of times I am required to be reminded that the way I am doing it makes no sense. And I’m stupid.

When word came down on Wednesday that yet another chore had to be torn apart and redone, the first thing that went through my mind was: If I had a nickel for the number of times I have had to suffer through this inexcusable process, I’d have about 15 cents, if memory served. So that was immediately discarded as a weapon.

The second thing I thought of was pouting. Nothing beats a sustained, spousal pout when trying to convince a slight inconvenience that it would serve a greater purpose if it could more closely resemble a tectonic shift. I also spent some time alone in my office practicing my heavy sigh.

The way it really happened:

I didn’t have to climb through the garbage pile. By the time I got home, Karen had already grabbed the shades’ cartons, which I had tossed neatly on top of the stack, and placed them in the garage, with the accompanying packaging materials neatly stuffed inside. This immediately rendered moot my hours of sighing practice. So that very kind gesture on her part threw me off a little.

It originally took me about 30 minutes on Tuesday to hang the two Roman shades in the double-wide kitchen window. I’ve become quite adept at the task, thanks to the intuition of the well-paid engineers who sit at giant drafting tables with t-squares and protractors and sharp pencils who are constantly inventing easier ways for challenged do-it-yourselfers with their flexing muscles oozing from sleeveless t-shirts trying hard as they might to impress their blushing brides with their nesting abilities — me included, although not so much with the oozing muscles and the underwear.

It actually took longer to get the stuff out of the box, figure out what all the pieces do, determine if I am indeed supposed to have extra pieces (because there are always extra pieces) and figure which end of the shade faces front and which end is up. (Learned that one the hard way.) Securing the brackets and hanging the shade was nothing.

So replacing the wrong shades was a piece of cake. Snap out the old one; snap in the new one. Done. I even used the old hardware. Stuffed the new hardware back in the old cartons, unopened. Genius.

But none of this is the point.

The point is it’s a lot harder — down right impossible — to fake anger and earn sympathy if the source of all things evil and wrong tries her hardest to make my life ridiculously easy.

She cheats. Best thing for a marriage.

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Bit of a disclaimer is warranted, I believe.

The wind beneath my wings and myself have been immersed in a complete kitchen renovation project for the better part of … oh … 15 years now.

And after a decade and a half of discussion, the actual work began a couple of months ago, when the talking became planning, and then purchasing, followed by the scheduling of deliveries, the installation of the hard parts by trained professionals, and the undertaking (appropriate word, right there) of the easier stuff by we watchers of cable TV home improvement shows who, thanks to the magic of television, have learned everything we need to know when it comes to complete kitchen renovation because we know how to sit on our ample derrieres and yell every time a house hunter complains about wall color. (“Paint It, You Moron” should be the name of a show on HGTV.)

On a serious note: I have delayed discussion of this topic out of respect for the families who have lost so much in the recent flooding. Sitting here making jokes about voluntarily renovating a kitchen seemed (and, to some, may still seem, for that matter) out of place while so many among us have been forced into a much more dire situation through no fault of their own. Karen and I had been planning this work for years and its timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate, in this regard. The hope here today is that those who have suffered great loss have been able to set themselves on a course of recovery and that they understand the intent is not to make light of their situation. The intent here, more often than not, is to ridicule the institution of marriage. Well, mine, anyway. Also, chores. And my husbandly abilities.

So, on a less serious note, with apologies to Dire Straits (and lyricists in general):



Now look at them homeowners — 

That’s the way you do it;

It looks so easy on HGTV.

That ain’t work, no; that’s the way they sell it.

I say: Honey, it’s nuthin’; I’ll do this for free.

Ain’t hard work? (Yeah.) That’s the way they tell it.

Lemme tell ya, them guys are dumb.

Wanna see the blisters on … all my fingers?

Dropped a box of tile on my thumb.


I’ve never installed a microwave oven.

Custom kitchen — deliver me-e-e-e.

Still got to move the refrigerator.

Thanks very much, HGTV-e-e-e.

(Move-a; move-a.)

The chubby hubby with the muffin top and D-cup

(Yeah, buddy, that’s his mans-iere);

The chubby hubby can’t hang up a pic frame,

And now he’s s’posed to plumb a Frigidaire?


Still trying to hang the microwave oven. 

Custom kitchen, I’m hating thee-e-e-e.

Book says I must first … hang up a template;

Drill holes through A, B, C and D-e-e-e.

(Drill-a; drill-a.)

I’ve grown to loathe this microwave oven;

Instructions making … no sense to me-e-e-e.

I’m scared to move that refrigerator — 

Afraid I’ll catch a her-ny-e-e-e.

(Ooo-a; ooo-a.)


Now looky here; looky here:

I should-a learned to play the possum;

Just admit … I’m way too dumb.

Look at that mama/she nailed it/on the TV camera:

Man. She makes it look so fun.

But who’s out there? What’s that?

My crying noises. They echo through the kitchen: Please deliver me.

But that ain’t nuthin’; I am quite used to it.

You say: Honey, it’s nuthin’? Please don’t lie to me.


About to toss this microwave oven

Through the wall of/your pant-ery-y-y-y.

And you can take that refrigerator

And stuff it where you cannot see-e-e-e-e.


Now listen here:

Look at this yo-yo; no clue how to do it.

I can’t learn nuthin’ from HGTV.

Now this ain’t workin’; ain’t no way around it.

Honey, it’s nuthin’? I must disagree.


OK, you win, you microwave oven.

Proved you can get the best of me-e-e-e.

Oh wait a second; this book’s in Spanish.

For English, see Page 23-e-e-e-e?

(Dumb-a; dumb-a.)

OK, honey, it’s nuthin’ … Wrong page, you see?

Honey, it’s nuthin’ … don’t dee-vorce me.

Can’t watch my …

Can’t watch my …

Can’t watch HGTV.

I said, honey it’s nuthin’ … I did paint, you see?

I’ll watch my …

I’ll watch my … 

I’ll watch HGTV. … 

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The dear, sweet, misunderstood love of my present life has been on a bit of a purging tear since the snow melted and she finally noticed it was safe to once again venture outside.

Ironic, I find it, how for years I have been grousing about the amount of space in which we live and how the amount of useless stuff we cram into it has far exceeded its boundaries.

In a balanced world (and by “balanced world” I mean “atypical marriage”) the stuff we need would fit perfectly in the space we set aside for it. And the stuff we don’t need would go out with the trash every week.

In the real world, however, the stuff we don’t need fills the attic, the garage, the old furniture we simply cannot get rid of because it contains storage space, the shelves we buy and bang into the walls because the old furniture is full, the storage boxes that conveniently slide under the bed because — lord knows — if there is an untapped inch of space somewhere — anywhere in the house — it has to be crammed full of crap.

Laundry baskets, which, I believe, should either hold dirty clothes being carted to the laundry, or clean clothes being carted back to their respective closets and bureaus, should not, during their off hours, be filled with the stuff that no longer fits on the shelves above the washer and dryer. And the stuff above the washer and dryer should be thrown out if it hasn’t been moved since the day the shelves were banged into place to hold it.

I firmly believe that if you own something and you haven’t touched it, seen it, thought of it, required it, missed it, or remembered it even exists, it no longer serves a purpose in your life. You should immediately throw it out.

I don’t make this stuff up. I watch a lot of home improvement TV. And I live in fear of “Hoarders.”

Note to any current wives of mine who may be reading this: This does not apply to spouses.

Also, you look lovely today.

I once invented a household rule that for a brief moment I was actually allowed to enforce. Those days — the days of me thinking rule enforcement is one of my abilities rights perks possibilities options — have long since passed. Like corn.

But there was a time when every new item that came into the house had to be balanced by the removal of one old item. If we buy a new stapler, we get rid of a vase. If we get a new coffee table, we throw out a pie plate. New car? Get rid of that torn blanket.

It worked great. Then it stopped. And since that time, the useless stuff has been allowed to take over. Like crabgrass.

Example: Shelves full of old rusted cans of furniture stripper, wrapped in the old tube socks, bed sheets and worn facial towels used to apply their contents to the furniture that has now been stripped and refinished and will never need stripping again.

Why can’t we just throw this stuff away, dear?

Because I might need it again some day, dear.

(I’m not the only one in the marriage who employs spousal pet names.)

Well how about these old, musty, mildewy, warped board games that have been buried on a shelf in the garage for two decades? Can we get rid of these, dear?

No. We can sell them at a garage sale, dear.

(Because nothing says “buy me” faster than a warped, moldy Scrabble board, or a mildew-covered Casino Yahtzee that is, to my disappointment, nothing like the real Yahtzee and impossible to learn how to play. The 25 cents we might get for these would push us one step closer to solvency. I see your point. The logic is not lost on this dear.)

And don’t even get me started on the attic. Mainly because in the 19 years since I was allowed to move indoors, I have yet to venture into it. That’s her territory and I have no idea what’s going on in there.

My reason for keeping my distance is, for me, a valid one: The doorway is too small. I have santaclaustrophobia — a legitimate fear of getting stuck in a tight space. I think she did it on purpose — had the doorway built that size.

Back to my original point, he said transitionally.

This year we have finally pulled the rip cord and begun the process of kitchen renovation. This has ignited a firestorm of purging on behalf of the little lady who does not like all of the pet names I have for her, and, if I was to guess, this would include little lady. But she never reads this, so we’re good.

Mind you, we haven’t removed a cabinet, pulled up the linoleum, purchased a can of paint or cleaned under the fridge, but the purging — oh, my goodness — the purging is in full swing.

During her month-long vacation in June, m’lady practically emptied out the garage single-handedly. I was very impressed, and told her so. Then I couldn’t find a hammer. And now I’m afraid to ask.

I am happy to report I still have a chair and ottoman in the living room and a bureau upstairs for my wardrobe (actually, the two smallest drawers in a bureau; I would never have access to an entire bureau — let’s be real. I live with a woman who needs to see a photo I.D. before she’ll dole out a clothes hanger).

I may have mentioned before that I am the principle cook, which means I am the principle kitchen user. Karen uses the kitchen to get from the living room to the porch. Also for refills of tea.

Yet in the months during which we have been planning and purchasing the pieces for this major project, she has taken it upon herself to decide it would be much more convenient for me if she moved the coffee maker over there. And put the KitchenAid under here. And rearranged all my spices, throwing out the ones she knows I’ll never want to use again. (And by “never want to,” I mean “have lost permission to.”)

It has gotten to the point at which she is actually wheeling the garbage bins out to the curb on the night before pickup — a job historically mine — in an attempt, I firmly believe, to keep me from seeing what she is finally throwing out.

The stuff I have been grousing about for years is rapidly dwindling, but I think she’s also tossing out some of the stuff I still want. There used to be no room to move in any of the cabinets and now several of them sit empty. I know for a fact she’s keeping stuff she has always liked and I have always hated. I can feel it. She’s hiding it somewhere and will spring it on me when the new kitchen arrives. I know it.

Perhaps she’s squirreling my stuff away for our next garage sale. I’ll have to bring a sock full of quarters to buy it all back.

If I only knew what she did with my socks.

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One of my all-time top-five favorite memories of life in a marriage ironically involves one of my least favorite things to do.

It was a picnic.

I say that now so I don’t lose you as you jump ahead to find out what I’m talking about.

Back in the 1990s, when the wind beneath my wings and I could still tolerate lengthy amounts of time across great distances in the same vehicle without secretly wishing the next pothole would send the mocha latte double fat caramel frilly drink for which we had to make a special stop because one of us didn’t feel like a normal morning beverage today at the regular morning beverage and gas-up store into one if not both nostrils, Karen and I would make a game out of road trips.

Now that we’re old and tired of one another’s crap, the only game we play in the car is How Long Before She’s Asleep and the Snoring Gets So Loud it Drowns Out the Music So I Turn it Up Louder and Get Yelled at for Playing the Music So Loud She Can’t Sleep.

Mattel makes it. Comes in a home version as well.

But we used to make road trips fun. On short trips, like over the river and through the woods to my mother’s house in Columbia County, we’d sing the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island” over and over and over as the kids, still in their infancy and not yet soiled by adulthood and its incumbent responsibilities and spouses, would laugh from the back seat and, in unison, yell “AGAAAAIN” over and over.

And over and over and over …

We had the song down pat, too. Making sure the right emphasis was on “the professor and Mary ANNE …”

(You may thank me later today when that song is still stuck in your head.)

On longer trips not involving the kids, we’d make up games, most of which revolved around movies or TV or music or other very important and highly smart topics like the global budget warming deficit plague forest meeting in the Hague. Also, food.

We had to do something to keep from going insane or start hating each other’s idiosyncrasies or aromas.

Thankfully, those days have passed and reality has finally set in.

But during those days, we once decided we would head off into the Hudson River Valley to Hyde Park and check out the mansions. As a child, mom and I (making up songs was the car game mom and I played) visited FDR’s house and the Vanderbilt mansion. I loved it. As, I wager, have those of you who also know this experience firsthand.

I’ve always felt the Hyde Park trip is one of those things that should be mandatory for all New York state residents. We have a lot of really cool things in this state that we too often take for granted and for which families from every corner of the globe save up their hard-earned cash to see.

Some of the larger ones are obvious: Niagara Falls, New York City, my childhood bedroom. Some of the others are much less famous yet no less worth the time and effort.

New York state is its own destination and I bet there are a shameful number of New Yorkers who haven’t seen a lot of our cool stuff. Anyway, among that stuff is Hyde Park. You should go.

So, about 15 or 20 years ago, Karen and I made plans to spend the day there — to look at all the rich people stuff that we could never afford, see how lavish our lifestyles could have been if we were born into it, and stand behind a lot of velvet rope lines.

Karen, to her credit, has also sort of been on a “dead presidents tour.” Something she came up with all by her lonesome after she realized she had been to the gravesites of a couple of former presidents. She hasn’t seen that many, but whenever we travel, we try to determine if there are any underground presidents within driving distance. Seeing FDR’s grave in Hyde Park was another notch in her perhaps gruesome yet enterprising little belt.

The day we went to Hyde Park it was especially hot. And the air conditioner in my vehicle had decided to conk out. Somehow, we didn’t kill each other. I think it was because we were still young and didn’t yet realize it was an option.

After trips through both mansions and a trip through Eleanor Roosevelt’s home-away-from-mansion, I was ready to eat. And in no mood to drive around a strange town looking for a joint agreeable to us both (offering food for her and a long-handled tap for me).

While walking to our car in a shaded parking lot at FDR’s house, we noticed picnic tables, also in the shade. Karen told me to go grab one. With my back to the car and all the futzing she was doing in the trunk, I sat clueless. A few moments later, she plopped down in front of me and between the two of us a completely packed picnic basket.

Greatest surprise she had ever pulled off and to this day one of the coolest moves she has ever made. Somehow, she had managed to stock up on the food, make sandwiches, desserts, various other treats, beverages, all neatly packed with those blue icy cooler things. Plates, napkins, everything. I was astonished.

Not only because I know everything that’s going on always when it comes to house stuff and the preparing of food by her. But she was also able to sneak it into the car without me knowing it, and found the perfect time to break it out in the perfect location (she got lucky here, believe you me).

Makes me feel bad that I pick on her car snoring.

But there we sat, under giant pine trees on the Roosevelts’ front lawn, plowing through tuna and egg salad sammies, some kind of decadent brownie/cookie something, and cold soft drinks. We discussed the day we had thus far enjoyed. I had completely forgotten about how hot it was and how much I hated picnics.

Knowing my dislike for eating outdoors and all the ridiculous machinations accompanying it, the wind beneath my wings still, with her eyes closed, threw a dart at a target 100 miles away and hit it dead center.

And I am aware that I may be in the minority when it comes to the eating outdoors thing (even though I remain King of the Grill). That’s OK. We all follow our own paths. Some day, we’ll get into the whys and why nots of this particular flaw in my ointment.

I’m sure it’s partly based on the fact that no picnic will ever rival the one that, while still young and friendly, caught me by surprise on a blistering hot summer day and a dead president’s front yard.

Can’t tell me the romance of young love was wasted on this Romeo.

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