Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wife Rule #61: It's a Corn Chex Life

Since I was already on the subject of cold cereal in the last Wife Rule, I thought I would continue the bold, inspiring trend, and tell you about my Corn Chex epiphany.

It was a month or so before I was to marry my wife, and I was home from college for the weekend for some reason. I woke up rather early that day and rolled out of the twin bed I had slept in since I was three, which was still covered with scratch-n-sniff stickers I had ordered from a book order in second grade. I went downstairs to the kitchen, and grabbed the milk from the fridge and a half-eaten box of Corn Chex from the cupboard.

It was one of the last bowls of Corn Chex I would ever consume on my parents' dime.

So there I was, sitting in my parents' kitchen, in my parents' house, dressed in pajamas my mommy bought for me, eating Corn Chex that belonged to my parents, and I started thinking. Really thinking. All this thinking, incidentally, resulted in the Corn Chex growing soggy in my parents' bowl at an alarming rate, because of being doused in the milk which also belonged to my parents.

I was thinking about everything my parents provided for me. The Corn Chex. The milk. The bowl. The spoon. My bedroom. The house. The electricity, and gas, and water to the house. The subsidies they provided to my college expenses the last few years. Even the auto insurance I currently "borrowed" as a qualifying student under age 25.

I realized I had been relying on my parents for a long, long time. I had no idea how to manage a household. I had never even paid bills--my roommates took care of that and I reimbursed them. True, I had made many trips to the grocery store, but I was used to only spending for one. One, One, One.

Now it would be Two, Two, Two. And then Three. Followed by Four. Maybe followed by More.

All at once I panicked. Really, I did. I panicked, right there in the middle of the Corn Chex. How would I, working part-time for a university teaching assistant's wages, ever be able to take care of a wife, much less kids? How could I feed them? How could I clothe them? How could I provide shelter for them? How could I possibly ever hope to do what my father had done in providing for me and the rest of his family all these years?

I realized I was chewing gold. Golden, expensive corn, shaped into little moisture-trapping squares. Evil little squares that caused the Chex to get prematurely soggy, so if you dared to even pause to think during breakfast, you would have to throw out the soggy bowl and get a fresh one, resulting in more profit lining the pockets of the filthy, money-grubbing corporate executives that dreamed up the Corn Chex shape in the first place, the guys that were going to bring me and my fledgling family to financial ruin, possibly within months.

Then my father entered the room. This heroic idol of mine, this Man of men, who had given me over twenty years of a pleasant, carefree life. A life where any money concerns that may have existed never once crossed into my consciousness to disturb my peace. A life I felt I should provide for my future family, but had no idea how I possibly ever could.

"Dad, can I ask you a question?" I pensively asked. And thus began an important father-son chat about family, finances, and the future. Dad shared with me a little secret, that twenty-something years ago he had once had a Corn Chex morning himself, or something similar to it. He encouraged me to have faith, to have confidence, to square my shoulders to life and be a man and that I would find, miraculously, that I could meet the demands placed upon me. He expressed his confidence in my ability to do it. He provided an immeasurable amount of comfort to a very frightened, uncertain young man that morning.

I wish I could say that I have never had a Corn Chex moment since then, but in reality, life is more complicated and uncertain every day. I have come to realize that life is an unending series of Corn Chex moments. It's designed that way: to test us, to stretch us, to force us to make the choice, over and over again, to square our shoulders to whatever it is that currently has us worried or worked up, and go forward in faith.

Perhaps my biggest misunderstanding during my Corn Chex morning was that I had to battle it out alone. But like my father was there for me that day, I now have a wife who is there for me every moment of every day. She is always there, to tell me she believes in me, that she knows I can do it, that I am not alone. She comforts me. She strengthens me. She bolsters my confidence. She fills in my gaps. We work together to solve the problems in our lives. We plan, we study, we talk, we ponder, we strategize, we pray, and we dream together.

We even eat our Corn Chex together, on our own dime.


Brooke said...

I remember that fateful bowl of cereal, or at least being told about it later. I'm so glad you didn't panic. You have been such a great money partner in our marriage - hardworking, thrifty, brave. . .

And all those boxes of Chex in our basement, they are all dedicated to you!

Shell said...

Matt, I love how much you love Brooke. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts on life, it's quite inspiring. I'm amazed that you can wax poetic over so many subjects!

S&J said...

Hey Matt, I liked your thoughful reflection on how it feels to start your own family. I think everyone relates to that.
--Love, Dad