It Happens All The Time

It's funny. I've been talking so much about these "collateral benefit" things lately, racking my brain trying to come up with examples, hoping someone will point out a new one to me, and all along there's been one, huge, obvious one right there in front of me.

It's such a simple concept, the idea of an arrangement that seeks to accomplish one thing and ends up accomplishing another in addition. "Nourishing two birds with one worm," as my gentle friend Jim likes to say. You'd think I would encounter them all the time, being a writer and all -- aren't there lots of things that create something valuable out of something that was extra? Not in my experience. Most desirable events only happen after some sacrifice, be it time, money or supplies, and the argument generally is just whether it's worth giving what you give to get what you get.

I thought maybe I'd write about freecycle, or rain barrels, or lemonade stands or food banks or double-yellow lines perhaps, or maybe I'd describe the way the sun reflects off my cats' I.D. tags when they lie by the window, how it moves across the room as they stir and yawn and delights Vince, our dog, making him like not only moving lights, which he was already pretty fond of, but the cats too, and the way he now stares at them happily whenever they enter the room.

But there's another one.


Today was a day pretty similar to most, lately at least. Penny and I got up around seven, smiled our groggy good mornings and shared some coffee. We were out of the kind of coffee creamer we like, so I had to improvise with some leftover powdered stuff, and the results were predictably underwhelming. She had her english muffin with sliced cheese on top, and I had a bowl of cereal. Then we went upstairs to the studio and got to work.

Every so often she'd call me over to look at what she was working on, ask my opinion on whether the man in her illustration should have a yellow shirt or a blue one. "Yellow," I said definitively, and she agreed.

We listened to music, from her computer, and today instead of me making requests she chose her own playlists, even taking the opportunity to play me some beautiful songs I'd never heard before, and had no idea were on our computer.

We turned on the fan when it got too hot, which was around 2 I guess, an hour or two after she brought me a PBJ and herself a lunch of avocado and tomatoes. She read me emails she was drafting to her various clients, asking me if all the grammar and syntax was right before she hit "Send." I updated her on my search for a motorcycle for her brother, telling her as much as she'd listen to about the latest vintage Yamaha or Suzuki I'd found on Craigslist.

She listened, sort of, as I explained about Grid Computing, and Human Proteome Folding, right up until we realized I didn't really understand it either. We solved a little puzzle when her programs started running slowly, looking online for the steps you take to "Reset Photoshop Preferences" and get her system running smoothly again.

And around five, when each of us was at a pretty good stopping point, we shut down both computers and went downstairs to go for a walk with Vince. I got a call from work, wrapping up something I sent over to them today and asking me to make some slight revisions. No problem. As they talked me through it, Penny went out in the back yard to wait.

I came out to see her as soon as my call was over, and she was lying in the sun on a fold-out chair, eyes closed, slight smile, totally beautiful. I walked over to her and told her as much, or thought it at least, and she looked up at me, squinting in the late afternoon light.

"I'm glad I married you," she said. "I'm glad I married you," I said. And the two of us, plus Vince, took a sunny stroll around the neighborhood. I thought about what a nice day it was, both weather and otherwise, and how obvious it could have been for me to see:

I married her because I love her and wanted her to be happy. She married me for the same reason. And we both got what we wanted.

Happy 4th Anniversary, Penelope.


-T- said...

Rock on you two.

Just Plain Jane said...

Add my good wishes for the rest of your lives together. And remember, some years are better than others.
Jane (married to the same man for 55 years in June)