I am a person with a great memory for details. In fact, I make it a sort of personal quest to collect small tidbits of information about my friends and family and file those facts away in my mental filing cabinet (which I am considering updating to a mental online database!) I never toss out a file, never recycle a page, never consolidate, paraphrase or condense. I preserve each and every one and over time, those mental files slowly start to paint a complex picture for me about each of my loved ones. I can then use my insights to better understand the people I care about and to avoid little things like serving them a dish that contains an ingredient they don't like, or picking a restaurant or suggesting an activity that isn't up their alley. Generally, I strive hard to avoid conflicts and I find my mental filing cabinet to be a fantastic tool for helping me navigate around certain loaded conversation topics in certain crowds, which is something I find to be immeasurably useful.
My husband, however, likes to clean out his mental filing cabinet on a regular basis. He finds it boarder-line ridiculous that I went four years without cooking pork for dinner because of one small side remark he made during a dinner about not liking pork. He is often left shaking his head over the insignificant things I remember and has issued a statement that all my mental files I keep on him should be cleared out and burned at regular six month intervals. (I am trying to decide if I should comply with that request...or only comply with that request for six months...and then burn it?!)
There is a quote floating around out there in the universe that says "Adversity doesn't build your character. Adversity reveals your character." I really believe this to be true and that is why I agree with many sociologists and relationship "experts" who claim that adversity is good for our relationships. Times of adversity provide us an opportunity to venture beyond the pretty mask of a happy relationship and truly discover whether or not we have solid footing underneath. I would imagine many couples can easily recount the first challenge they overcame together, whether big or small, and what that experience revealed to them about their partner and their ability to work together. I know I definitely remember the first real challenge the universe threw our way one night about nine years ago, but I wouldn't really have expected my husband to have an equally vivid recollection (after all, nine years is WAY past his six month expiration!) So I was quite surprised to hear him recount the story to our children with exquisite detail this evening as we were eating dinner.
"One night before your mom and I were married, it was so cold the shampoo in people's showers froze! I was giving your mom a ride home and there was lots of snow and slush, and ice on the roads - so they were very slippery! As I was driving up the hill to mom's house, I pushed on the gas and the car went up the hill...and then slid back down. So I tried again - up the hill....and it slid back down! Up the hill....and it slid back down...and it was stuck! I tried pressing the gas again and the wheels just spun around and around, but the car wouldn't move!"
At this point in his story there were many enthusiastic gasps from his wrapped audience and everyone had to take a turn recreating the sound they imagined tires would make as they squealed across and icy winter road.
"So I asked your mom to get out of the car and push it while I tried to steer it out of the ice and slush..."
Yes folks, this is true. My prince charming sent ME out into the freezing night to the back end of his car to push!
"And now, your mom did a good job trying to push the car - but it still wouldn't budge! So I came up with the idea to grab a piece of cardboard and place it under the tire. That way the tire would be turning on the cardboard and not the slippery ice..."
This suggestion is met with many nods of approval from many child-sized heads
"So I put the cardboard under the tire and I pushed down on the gas pedal and *ZOOM!* the piece of cardboard shot out from under the tire and flew all the way across to the other side of the street!"
Here there was more gasping
"So that didn't work, but then I thought - hey! The floor mats of the car! They would have more traction because they are rubber and they would kind of stick to the ice."
Dad you're such a genius, the boys are all thinking
"So I grab the mat right out of the car and I stick it under the tire. I push down on the gas pedal and *ZOOM!* the floor mat goes flying out from under the tire and shoots all the way across the street!"
At this point the audience is on the edge of their seats, myself included! Unlike the rest of the pint sized crew however, I wasn't anxious to discover whether or not Dad shot any other random items across a snowy street via car tire. Instead, I was waiting to find out if my husband also remembered who finally came up with a working solution to the stuck car problem! And if he did remember - would he willingly tell his sons, or would he sort of gloss over that particular detail of the story ;-) You see - my husband and I are both a bit prideful and we both like to think of ourselves as the dominant personality in our relationship, so it isn't very often that we are enthusiastic about admitting the other has a superior idea.
"Do you know how we finally got the car unstuck? It turned out your MOM knew a magical trick for helping the car!"
I am simultaneously shocked and impressed that he not only remembers, but is really playing up the significance of my contribution all those years ago! The kids meanwhile sit google-eyed, waiting for the juicy details.
"You see, your mom knew this magical thing about salt and ice! And she poured the salt out onto the ice.............and the ice just MELTED AWAY and I drove the car right back off the slippery ice!"
Wow! Amazing! Cool! comes tumbling out the kids mouths as they stare at me with wonder on their little faces...
"And that's when I knew kids...."
My husband looks lovingly into my eyes from across the table and smiles and I am instantly touched. In all these years I never realized the he also looked back at that night as such a significant moment in our relationship! But then he continues...
"Yes, THAT is when I knew kids...that your mom...is a WITCH!"
He definitely got me good this evening! But in all truthfulness, that icy night nine years ago WAS the night our relationship was tested for the very first time. That night we handled a very obnoxious, cold, and potentially stressful experience with fantastic humor. We laughed at my failed attempts to muscle the car back off the shoulder of the road. We laughed as big pieces of cardboard and car floor mats were flying through the air, and we laughed when my suggestion to use table salt on the ice (which was the first idea suggested!) ended up taking care of the problem in a matter of seconds. With the car freshly un-stuck, we went in to my apartment and warmed up with some hot chocolate and I thought to myself, "Man, we made a great team out there!"
Since that day we have faced down many more moments of adversity (though thankfully we have been very blessed over all.) Some times we are that same great team that laughed together on a frozen street, other times we have to remind ourselves we are on the same side. But in the end, we always have come out laughing, and really -what more could this witch ask for!