It’s Sunday afternoon. All is well with the world. The air is cold and clear, the sky is dotted with fluffy clouds, and the birds are dining at the feeder.
But this is MY world. In the kitchen, a strange and hurried existence devours the afternoon. It would be my husband’s life. All is not well with his world.
Our canned foods live in the lower cabinet next to the sink. They are already in order according to their contents (thanks to him): and stacked in neat rows.
Seldom-used cans are relegated to the top shelf, their labels facing forward in a perfect “why did you buy them if you’ll never use them” formation.
Following: Thanks for being a friend
Today’s project is much more complex than just categorizing cans. John takes them from the area they’ve filled in since the 90s and moves them to another cabinet in the back room.
The things on THESE shelves – macaroni and cheese boxes, crackers, etc. – will go to the vacated cupboard.
John is a “project man”. I am a “working person”. I like to take my work in small bursts. Do what needs to be done. Find that pin, pick it up, and enjoy my luck for the rest of the day.
Following: Peril atop Illinois GOP ticket
John will find the pin. To gather. Scour the floor for more pins. Handcraft a pincushion from carefully selected fabric on which he has sewn the words “Found Pins”.
This ball will be placed, carefully and proudly, in a logically correct and carefully chosen area of our home.
With an entire house to take care of, the women “straighten up”. We have other things to do – meals, laundry and dishes – every day. Cleaning is carried out according to schedules that we have developed over time and which we follow religiously.
Following: Squeeze things, flatten
Not John. He sees a cluttered locker or an illogically arranged area and immediately begins to measure it with bright eyes. Geometry is involved. A level appears. If a pencil is perched behind his ear, I know a “project” is underway.
All life ceases around him when John begins his project. Storms can rage. Rivers can flow backwards. I could announce a premature pregnancy. He wouldn’t hear any of this. Blinders firmly attached, he is happily busy stripping and reapplying dull grout around the tub.
Her fingers sing enough as they flit through the medicine cabinet: checking expiration dates, bottle levels, and directions for use.
“When was the last time someone used that calamine lotion?” He crowded the side of the house and found me outside by the back fence. “Don’t you think it’s time to throw it away?” I have to pretend to care.
Following: Sleepwalking through our own decline
While I pull bits of toilet paper out of the dog’s mouth and try to keep up with the garbage, John is wonderfully busy. He doesn’t see the big picture. He is busy transforming small images of acceptable artistry into chaotic Picasso-esque masterpieces that no one will ever see or appreciate.
“It just needs to be done,” he tells me through a mouthful of nails he uses to make a hat/coat/key/whatever rack on the back porch. “We need some order in this place.” Beneath his feet, the sand from his boots crashes on the flagstones. I’ll have to sweep this up when I have a minute.
My life with John is like a seesaw. Sometimes the fun is the chubby kid, but as the years pass, the frustration mounts. There is never a balance; our playground, although pleasant, is not always full of laughter.
However, one thing will never change. I will continue to do things my way, little by little, and John will come behind me to make mountains out of these molehills.
I just took a look in the cupboards. The cans are in their new home. Looks like they’ve been dusted off.
Contact Robin at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Canton Daily Ledger: Robin’s approach to projects is different from that of her husbands, but it works