I’ll never understand my wife.
The day she moved in with me, she started opening and closing my kitchen cabinets, gasping, “You don’t have any shelf paper! We’re going to have to get some shelf paper in here before I move my dishes in.”
“But why?” I asked innocently.
“To keep the dishes clean,” she answered matter-of-factly. I didn’t understand how the dust would magically migrate off the dishes if they had sticky blue paper under them, but I knew when to be quiet.
Then came the day when I left the toilet seat up.
“We never left the toilet seat up in my family,” she scolded. “It’s impolite.”
“It wasn’t impolite in my family,” I said sheepishly.
“Your family didn’t have cats.”
In addition to these lessons, I also learned how I was supposed to squeeze the toothpaste tube, which towel to use after a shower and where the spoons are supposed to go when I set the table. I had no idea I was so uneducated.
Nope, I’ll never understand my wife.
She alphabetizes her spices, washes dishes before sending them through the dishwasher, and sorts laundry into different piles before throwing it into the washing machine. Can you imagine?
She wears pajamas to bed. I didn’t think anyone in North America still wore pajamas to bed. She has a coat that makes her look like Sherlock Holmes. “I could get you a new coat,” I offered.
“No. This one was my grandmother’s,” she said, decisively ending the conversation.
Then, after we had kids, she acted even stranger. Wearing those pajamas all day long, eating breakfast at 1:00 P.M., carrying around a diaper bag the size of a minivan, talking in one syllable paragraphs.
She carried our baby everywhere — on her back, on her front, in her arms, over her shoulder. She never set her down, even when other young mothers shook their heads as they set down the car seat with their baby in it, or peered down into their playpens. What an oddity she was, clutching that child.
My wife also chose to nurse her even when her friends told her not to bother. She picked up the baby whenever she cried, even though people told her it was healthy to let her wail.
“It’s good for her lungs to cry,” they would say.
“It’s better for her heart to smile,” she’d answer.
One day a friend of mine snickered at the bumper sticker my wife had put on the back of our car: “Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Is a Work of Heart.”
“My wife must have put that on there,” I said.
“My wife works,” he boasted.
“So does mine,” I said, smiling.
Once, I was filling out one of those warranty registration cards and I check “homemaker” for my wife’s occupation. Big mistake. She glanced over it and quickly corrected me. “I am not a homemaker. I am not a housewife. I am a mother.”
“But there’s no category for that,” I stammered.
“Add one,” she said.
And then one day, a few years later, she lay in bed smiling when I got up to go to work.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing. Everything is wonderful. I didn’t have to get up at all last night to calm the kids. And they didn’t crawl in bed with us.”
“Oh,” I said, still not understanding.
“It was the first time I’ve slept through the night in four years.” It was? Four years? That’s a long time. I hadn’t even noticed. Why hadn’t she ever complained? I would have.
One day, in one thoughtless moment, I said something that sent her fleeing to the bedroom in tears. I went in to apologize. She knew I meant it because by then I was crying, too.
“I forgive you,” she said. And you know what? She did. She never brought it up again. Not even when she got angry and could have hauled out the heavy artillery. She forgave, and she forgot.
Nope, I’ll never understand my wife. And you know what? Our daughter is acting more and more like her mother every day.
If she turns out to be anything like her mom, someday there’s going to be one more lucky guy in this world, thankful for the shelf paper in his cupboard.