by Martha Powers
In a recent issue of one of the women's magazines, I ran across an article on how to tell if your marriage had lost its original romantic spark. All you had to do was compare the letters and notes your husband left you over the years and you would know if something was missing in your relationship.
I remember reading the same sort of article in the early years of our marriage. I dug around in various boxes until I unearthed some notes that Bill had left me. Reading them, I could see that after the children arrived the original spark began to flicker sadly until it resembled an old campfire after a torrential rain.
"Darling, the flowers on the sink are just a little something to thank you for the wonderful dinner party we had on Saturday night. The guests were really dazzled when you served the flaming Crêpes Suzettes. The fire was not entirely your fault. Jenny shouldn't have stood up so suddenly when you were behind her chair. I'm sure the beauty shop ought to be able to do something with your hair. Didn't wake you because I know the doctor said bed rest was the best medicine for the burns. Love, Bill."
"Dear Martha, running low on shirts, so I threw some in the washer. I'll try to get home early so I can give you a hand with the baby. New Nappies called and asked if you would stop using the diapers to wash windows and what you wanted them to do with the other laundry you included with the used diapers. Why don't we go out to dinner on Friday? With the new baby you could probably use a break. Love."
"Martha, doesn't that baby ever sleep during the night? Keep it awake all day if you have to so we can get some sleep tonight. While you're out today, pick up six two-by-fours, three four-by-eight sheets of plywood and a box of 8 penny nails. I'll fix up the basement playroom and then we can get 10,000 toys out of the middle of the living room floor. Why are the only clean shirts in my closet, three Hawaiian print shirts and my red wool hunting shirt? Bill."
As our second child arrived and the kids grew, the letters became a little more acerbic.
"Hi, keep an eye on Jean today. Next time she flushes down a hand towel she'll have to give up her bathroom privileges and “go” outside. Mrs. Pickard called and Matt is “going” outside and she wants her shrubs replaced. Does it concern you that I've been out of toothpaste for a week? Me."
"Tell Jean I'm sorry that I can’t get home in time for the burial of her guinea pig, Tell her to get the box out of her room and to hold the services today without me. Tell Matt that if he breaks another window this week I will personally cut up his new bat for kindling. Tell your mother you can't go to that sale at the dress shop. We're broke until payday."
By this point in our marriage, I had become a conveyor of messages. According to the magazine, at the first signs of trouble you should take immediate action. There were suggestions to improve the romance in your life, but I ruled out several on the basis of age and agility of the participants.
As in most emergencies in my married life, I called my mother. She agreed to take the kids overnight only after I promised never to reveal how much she had spent on her new winter coat. Alone at last, I planned a romantic dinner for two.
"Morning. Would have waked you, but know how you hate going fishing. Back in time for dinner. How come the kids were so quiet last night? While you're out today pick up the new sump pump I've got on order at the hardware store. Boss agreed that the turtleneck sweater looked comfy, but he would prefer I wear a shirt and tie. Have you seen any shirts near the washing machine? Nice evening last night. Bill."
Staring down at the old box of letters, I realized that even then I should have known that our marriage was on track. Each stage of our lives had stresses and strains that changed as our family grew. Bill might not be the great communicator but he was in for the long haul. After thirty-five years I still enjoy his notes.
Perhaps it’s the traditional patterns that emerge with each one.
“Mart, off to get new tires. While you’re out today could you pick up some heartburn stuff, a heat patch for my knee, three two by fours and a miter saw? Could we have an early dinner? I’ve got golf in the morning. Any chance for a clean shirt? Love, The Prince.”
Martha Powers is a former humor columnist who left behind the winters of Chicago for the sun and sand of Vero Beach, Florida. She is the author of eleven published novels. Martha writes fiction thrillers but finds that killing off the bad guys isn't as much fun as writing for laughs. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org