It was a drizzly, dank day in early October, 1987 when we returned from our 2-week honeymoon to Acapulco and Disney World learning what true intimacy really meant after succumbing to a colorful stomach virus on stop one in Mexico—close quarters and newlywed dysentery are not a pretty sight! Wanting to get our new homestead up and running, I sauntered into the grocery store to grab a few pantry essentials and left with two carriages full of everything from Cornish game hens (no clue what they even were) to SOS pads (does anyone even use those today?).
As a 23-year old newlywed, I quickly learned that grocery shopping for two did not entitle me to spend nearly $300 a week for extra lean hamburger and other incidentals. After a few months of fresh veggies rotting faster than I could dice them, I swiftly mastered the brave art of consumer comparison shopping, which served us well because we were able to upgrade from our sweet, cottage starter home to a full-blown 6-bed Mediterranean Contemporary in a few short years. Oh, how I would give my monthly root touch-ups for all that closet space now!
That was one of my first vivid experiences with making comparisons. While noting the savings between one and two-ply toilet paper certainly paid off during the past 20 years, I found that some things just cannot and should not be compared—starting with spouses.
I’ve made it no secret that my handsome husband brought many things to the table when we become a couple, but being handy sure wasn’t one of them. On any given weekend, I’d see the other husbands in the neighborhood, tool belts armed and ready, tackling rickety gutters, securing loose shingles or even changing the oil in their own lawnmowers. Not my guy—bless his heart though, he would spend our days off accompanying me on shopping excursions, staying out of my way while I tackled home projects, or even visiting my family! Just because he will probably never own a ratchet wrench, so what, he’s a keeper!
Also keepers were the two cocker spaniels we got during the first month of our marriage. Never in a million years did we think we’d own a dog, never mind two, that would cost as much as one mortgage payment. But my heart couldn’t stop beating when I first laid eyes on them. Brian knew he was in trouble and didn’t even bother trying to talk me out of them. We were soon the proud parents of two yippy, nippy dogs that wet the floor the second anyone walked in the house. Although all the other pups in the hood seemed to actually obey commands and never stole food from the table, Chloe and Ashley were my special slices of comfort during six long years of infertility—so you know what—I wouldn’t have traded them for the best-behaved pooches in the world.
Now then, about that infertility bout I battled for years. Isn’t it always the way that when you want something so badly, everyone else around you seems to get what you want—effortlessly? While all my friends, family and every stranger I encountered at Wal-Mart was eagerly awaiting a visit from the stork, I was home making deals with the man above that if I were to get just one chance to become a mother, I’d never complain about anything, ever again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had the world by the tail. We both had great jobs, a dream home (including a pool boy!) and vacationed anywhere we wanted to for all those years that I spent crying beside an empty crib.
Ask and you shall receive. After the blessed adoption of our beautiful oldest daughter, and then seven babies later, my mission to become a mother was finally accomplished. Now what? Well, downsizing our living arrangements for starters. Losing one hefty income yet super-sizing our family in ten short years meant that designer dream home had to go. We moved to a simple raised ranch, and though we did lots of renovations and such, it wasn’t the mansion we had owned years earlier. Somehow it didn’t seem fair that families with one or two children had their own walk-in closets while we were wondering where to stack the next bunk bed, but what a great problem to have, more family members vs. available square footage.
And last, but not least, the children that I cried to have for all those years—they now have friends, cousins, and teammates that are superstar athletes, stellar students, gifted musicians, don’t have learning disabilities, and sport the latest electronic gadgets all while wearing the latest designer labels. You know where this is going, right? It’s hard to avoid noticing how everyone else’s kids don’t have the same struggles my kids do. Or do they? What a bummer to fall into the trap of wanting to make a child be something other than his own unique self.
Thankfully, a brand new year has arrived offering us yet another opportunity to mold and shape it with our dreams and goals but above all our actions. I know that I will have more ideas and desires than time will permit, but hopefully, in 2011, I will save my need to compare for when I am carousing the aisles of the grocery store, not when I’m thinking about my own or my family’s past or present accomplishments.
Copyright 2011 Cheryl L. Butler