Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wife Rule #157: Find the Treasures - II

Another recent treasure:

On our way home from our weekly date, as we approached our neighborhood, on a whim I pulled off the road into the parking lot for a small walking path that runs along the edge of the golf course and follows the river towards the canyon. Though we have jogged and biked along alternate paths through this general area, this was our first time along this particular stretch.

It was already past sunset. The cool blueness of dusk enveloped the landscape, the long shadows of the valley having long since merged into the mountainside. Only the tops of the peaks still glowed in the last yellow light of the day.

The earth around us was suspended in a hushed stillness. The low, rolling hills of field grass and wildflowers between the path and the groomed lawns of the golf course only occasionally murmured, when a lone bit of breeze wandered through the valley. The marsh grass and cattails surrounding the ponds betrayed no movement.

We strolled through this mesmerizing scene, noting the various landscaping features we admired in the backyards of the homes that bordered the path. Cheerful, yellow light spilled out from some of the windows of the homes. A few children scrambled past us, engaged in an early night game. A few residents sat, enjoying the beauty from their patios. We exchanged waves of hello with them as we passed.

My wife's fingers tightened around mine as we made our way up the path. We walked clear to the end before turning around. Her eyes shone with peaceful joy as we chatted softly about the homes, the yards, the grass, the flowers, the canyon, the mountains, and of course, our children.

Our younger children were safe at home, already in their beds, in the care of our oldest daughters. The darkness deepened, signaling our time to return home. The whole walk had only been maybe thirty minutes, but even so, we hadn't done anything spontaneous like this little diversion in what seemed like a long, long time. But now that there wasn't a sitter to send home and a schedule to stick to, we had a whole, new world of options open to us.

This built-in babysitter thing is a game-changer. That day was a good day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wife Rule #156: Find the Treasures

Life seems to increase in difficulty, complexity, and pace all simultaneously. Unfortunately, during the times when my wife most needs to hear sweet words of affirmation and when I most need to write them, life doesn't seem to allow time to jot them down. It has been this way for the past several months, as various Wife Rules have floated into and back out of my head without ever lodging long enough to write down.

So what is a man to do when his time in the sun is up and he's sent into the dark of the mines? Dig for treasure, of course. And it's always there to be found, no matter how much dirt has to be moved to get to it. I've been reminded recently that life's treasures only increase in value the deeper into the mines we go. Or in other words, the harder life gets, the more precious those gems become.

I'll attempt to catalog just a few of the treasures I've enjoyed the past several months, since I haven't been finding time to regularly write My Wife Rules.


The sun had sunk in the west, leaving behind a canvas of Carribean blue that bled into black as my eyes scanned upward, searching for stars. I have long referred to this particular pallete of colors as a "Disney Sky," because this is how the skies are always painted in the Disney cartoon movies--especially during the parts where the princess and prince fall in love. Think of the way the sky looked during Aladdin's carpet ride with Jasmin, or Belle's dance with the Beast.

As the sky slowly darkened, the lights of the attractions at California Advanture park became more punctuated. I watched the trains round the loops of the California Screamin' roller coaster in time with the shrill soundtrack of delighted riders. The giant outline of Mickey Mouse shone brightly on the Ferris Wheel as the cars swayed lazily in the night. The black lagoon reflected the lights, and the breeze was stuffed with the smell of water and grease and sugar.

I sat alone on the terrace with Summer--alone because my wife had taken advantage of the short line on the new Little Mermaid ride to entertain the five older kids while we waited for the World of Color show to start. I remained behind with the baby to reserve our spot, which was marked by a couple of blankets and a stroller that had managed to keep just a bit of space free from the crowds of thousands of other enthusiastic park goers who were also waiting the remaining 30 minutes for the musical and visual spectacular.

Speakers from somewhere behind us had been playing pleasant instrumental music all evening, and as I bounced Summer on my knee, the familiar melody of Stardust began. The high strings sang out the lines I had so often repeated to my babies as I rocked them to sleep:

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
steals across the meadow of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart...

Ooooh, this was perfect. Perfect setting, perfect music, and the perfect little girl to sing to. I turned Summer around so I could look her directly in the eye. She smiled back at me through slurping lips full of chubby little fingers as I sang along in my best Nat King Cole voice:

Sometimes I wonder how I spent
the lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my memory
and I am once again with you
When our love was new
and each kiss an inspiration...

I leaned in and rubbed noses with Summer, eliciting a delighted squirm with squinted eyes and outstretched arms. I finished her off with a kiss, right on the mouth.

But that was long ago and now my consolation
is in the stardust of a song
Beside the garden wall, when stars are bright,
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy-tale
of paradise where roses bloom...

Some paradise, like this place. Here I was, surrounded by gardens and flowers and pleasant sights and sounds and smells, and sharing it all with my little princess, under a Disney sky. I was definitely falling in love.

Though I dream in vain
in my heart it always will remain
my Stardust melody,
the memory of love's refrain.

As I finished singing the closing lines, we rubbed noses again, eliciting another Summer smile. As I drew back my head, she reached out to touch my face. I caught her fingers in my mouth and kissed them.

I was called back from my trance by the presence of a sweet older woman who must have been sitting next to me the whole time, but who had faded into non-existence along with the rest of the crowd during my serenade.

"That was beautiful. I didn't know anyone knew the words to that song anymore," she remarked.

"It's one of my favorites," I replied. "It has such a nice melody--perfect for a lullaby."

"I wish I had my video camera for that," she sighed. "That was so sweet. They grow up so fast, you know."

I know. I know. Times like these fade too quickly into the twilight of the changing sky, just like stardust. My oldest is already over half raised, and I'm just barely beginning to figure out how to be a dad.

My wife and the other five kids appeared, wearing wide grins and chattering about the events of the day. It was suddenly noisy, but it was also so good to have them back, to be a whole family, together again. I returned fully into the crowded setting as we reshuffled our positions and tried to arrange seating for the show.

Times like these are what being a dad is all about. Today was a good day.