Stopped by the feed store this afternoon, where a solitary employee stood at the doorway, leaning on a broom, squinting upwards at the sky. I turned to see what he was looking at and saw a couple of red-tailed hawks in the distance. Seemed unremarkable to me, but there’s a lesson in that: when things seem unremarkable, it simply means we aren’t paying attention.
The kind fellow acknowledged my quizzical expression with an explanation: those hawks weren’t just killing time, they were engaged in an impressive aerial mating ritual. Turns out that hawks mate IN FLIGHT. Take that, Kama Sutra! And if you don’t think that’s romantic, consider this: red-tailed hawks, like swans and a few other species of birds, mate for life.
That glimpse of romance and a fast-approaching Valentine’s day sets me to thinking about my marriage, which is either doomed or eminently solid, I can’t decide which. The CE and I have made a red-slash-through-the heart pact for Valentine’s Day this year: no gifts! A bold move, to be sure! Are we that brave, that secure, to completely forego the candy and flowers?
I’d like to say yes. Our marriage is what I would call “companionate”, which is just a nice way of saying that we perpetually stalk each other. On a good day I like to think of it in the way Cate Blanchett described her partnership with her husband as “being in each other’s pocket”. On a bad day – well, keep me away from heavy blunt objects. As homebody-style retirees, we have hundreds of interactions each day, ranging from the shout up the stairs “DID YOU LET THE CHICKENS OUT?” to almost-daily lunch dates and almost-constant bickering, to holding hands as we walk down the street (yes, we have BECOME that older couple who young ones trivialize as being “cute”) to the ultimate romantic gesture of accommodating each other’s worst obsessions. “Sure I’ll build you a chicken coop”. “Of course you can spend our hard-earned money on yet another useless bagface”.
How does it work? Why does it work? The Wall Street Journal published a recent article on long-married couples entitled “How to Make a Marriage Last for the Long Haul” http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2010/02/09/how-to-make-a-marriage-last-for-the-long-haul/?KEYWORDS=marriage featuring couples as diverse as Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne and Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter. I always make a beeline for articles like this, thinking they will reveal to me once and for all the kernel of why the CE and I are still in the game after some 30 years together. Other than a few platitudes about perseverance, however, the WSJ article comes to about the same conclusion I do when I ponder our relational longevity: “Beats me!” Or, as the wife of a couple in their 90’s sagely answered the inquiry: “Eh-neither one of us died, I guess.”
If you’re thinking that our no-gift decision is sensible and our marriage a model for success, think again. I am not above treachery. Because there IS something I want, and I am merely lying in wait for the right moment. Which will be later in the spring. Which will be me, sweetly evoking my Valentine martyrdom as I mention a scenic drive over to Riverside County to (sotto voce here) “pick up a few chicks”. The CE will briefly envision lithe young things in tank tops until he realizes what I’m REALLY talking about. Yes, folks, the addictions weigh heavily. I’m jonesing for a few more chickens and I know where to find them.
I’ve found a breeder who is willing to guarantee me a pullet D’Uccle and Silkie. This is no small feat (although I do believe that the feat-of-the-day award still goes to those mid-air mating acrobatics of the red-tailed hawks!) since both breeds are notoriously-hard-to-sex bantams – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – size matters! Not sure exactly when I’ll get them, but I’ve decided that a head count of three is a bit on the sparse side.
Of course, this could mean an onslaught of bagfaces for him, but where’s the harm in that? As long as he’s not describing me as the old bag, and I’m the one looking for young chicks, I say we’re solid. Happy Valentine’s Day! Love to all!