Mark and I recently celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. I’ve screwed up a lot of things in this life, but as for this marriage, so far, so good. In fact, we’ve been asked many times over the years what makes our union work so well. We’ve given different answers over time – communication, compromise, humor, companionship, forgiveness – but on some level, neither of us has a clue. Marriage is the original black box technology. But having said that, I’m guessing that one important thing we have going for us might surprise you. So here goes:
We are very, very good at the small stuff.
Now, I know that small stuff gets a bad rap. It’s dismissed as being trivial and time-wasting. In fact, a best-seller in the not too distant past enjoined us not to sweat the small stuff. But while I completely agree that you have to pick your battles (that’s a topic for another blog post, I suppose), small stuff matters.
Consider our conversation at breakfast yesterday. Apropos of nothing (I could tell you how I got there in my head, but that’s immaterial here), I looked at Mark and asked him if he remembered the peanut song our daughters had on a cassette tape when they were growing up. It goes something like this:
A peanut sat on a railroad track
Its heart was all aflutter
Along came a choo-choo train
Woohoo (aka, train noise)
“Something’s bothering me about the peanut song,” I said, looking Mark in the eye and leaning across the table towards him. “I really need to know. Do you think the peanut is suicidal?” The man never missed a beat. “I’ve wondered about that myself,” he said, and took another bite of toast. This is a small thing, but it’s what makes us hum along.
Of course, there are millions of small things over the course of three and a half decades. Mark makes coffee every morning. I got him a copy of his favorite snapshot of his grandfather. He watches film adaptions of Jane Austen books (we had Greer Garson as Lizzie Bennett and Laurence Olivier as Darcy the other night). I encourage him to collect autographs from his favorite baseball players. True story on this – we’d gone to Cooperstown a few summers ago for the induction of Jeff Bagwell into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many players come up on Induction Weekend and sell tickets so that you can get their autographs. Mark was reluctant to fork over for some player, I forget who, because he said he’d already spent enough money on autographs. Tired of arguing with him, I just pointed at the ticket line and said, “Stop protesting and go get your —- in line.” He shrugged and turned to comply. The stranger next to me, who was on his phone at the time, covered the microphone with his hand and said, “Lady, will you please talk to my girlfriend?”
Little things count in friendships, too. Some friends give great hugs. Some friends give great book recommendations. And some just know when to fill the small gaps that arise in life. Take last Saturday as an example. Friends here in Torrevieja were going out for tapas. Normally we’d have gone with them, but we’re quarantined in anticipation of returning to the USA soon. One of the merrymakers dropped a package by our apartment on her way to tapas. The package contained a bottle of wine, a nice cheese, fancy mixed nuts, and the date cake pictured here. The accompanying note told us that she’d made up the package so that we could have treats that night, too. I might be willing to walk over crushed glass for this woman.
So here’s to the little things that maybe aren’t so little after all. I urge you to go out of your way to do something little and kind today. The effect on the recipient will be agreeable, I hope, but here’s the main objective: you may notice all the lovely little things that others do for you. And that, my friend, is as sweet as a date cake and as heady as a bottle of wine. Always.