“A friendship is like a garden: You have to water it, and tend it, and care about it, or you lose it.” That’s from a musical called Merrily We Roll Along by Stephen Sondheim. The statement is doubly true for marriages. I know from experience how easy it is to fall into a routine of going to work, coming home, eating supper, watching TV, and going to bed. Routines are hard on marriages, because when a marriage isn’t growing it’s decaying. Or, to extend the analogy, the weeds grow while the gardener rests.
Early in our marriage, Mrs. Happy and I took sack lunches to work nearly every day. Each morning before leaving for work, I would usually pack the lunches for both of us. In the process of that, I would draw a little cartoon on her sack to make her smile during her lunch break. When I drew a cartoon, I liked for it to be relevant to our relationship at the time. For instance, one day we hardly got to see each other at all because I worked until 5:00 p.m. and she had class (she spent two years in a Master’s program) from 5:30 to 10:00. When she got home, there was a gentle rain falling, so we lay down in our bed, which is right next to a window, and talked to each other while we watched and listened to the rain. It was truly a sweet time and a relief after being away from each other for longer than usual. So the next day I drew a little cartoon of the two of us playing in the rain. Back then, I made it my goal to cultivate our relationship in such a way that I always had something to draw on her lunch sack.
She looked forward to the drawings every day. They meant so much to her that she saved them in a sack that I had decorated more elaborately than the others. Last night we looked through them again, reminiscing about the times that each cartoon represented and speculating about the events that led to some of the more bewildering drawings. Mrs. Happy picked out four that she especially loved and allowed me to scan them for posting here. I have included them below, with explanations of each. Click on each image to see the full drawing.
- One day I was doing some work in our attic when I heard a crash and a scream. I rushed down the stairs to find Mrs. Happy frantic and crying and running around in circles. I was eventually able to determine that she had spilled boiling water on her foot, so I administered as much first aid and TLC as I could muster. This cartoon is me showing sympathy and kissing the wound to make it better.
- A couple of years ago, my wife developed a buildup of impacted wax in one of her ears. She could not hear out of it for about a week, and it made her ear feel large and mis-shapen to her.
- It took me seven years of going to school to get a bachelor’s degree. It took my wife six years to get both a bachelor’s and a master’s. I drew this around the time that she received her master’s degree.
- There have been a few times in our 5+ years together in which it seemed that we might have a Happy and Unexpected Baby on the way. This particular time, we (and me in particular) were nowhere near ready for it, but Mrs. Happy was still a little disappointed when the test came back negative.
These days, we don’t take our lunches to work so much anymore. But now I make it my goal to cultivate our relationship in such a way that I have something to blog about every day.
My wife went to a meeting at church last night at which one of our friends pulled her aside and asked her very seriously, “What did you mean about people wearing things across their butts? I can’t figure it out and I can’t remember anything from the Web site but that.” So, in case anyone else is wondering, here’s what she meant: She saw a teenage girl walk past our table wearing what appeared to be pajama bottoms with the word LUCKY written across the rear. Mrs. Happy is not opposed to that sort of thing in principle, but she does think it a little immodest to wear lucky pajamas in public.