It’s funny how little things make a huge difference. One tiny circle can be the difference between one hundred and a thousand. One tiny straw broke the camel’s back. One wee little pea kept a princess awake all night.
And, in our house last night, one moment meant the difference between normal and totally bizarre.
Don’t worry, we’re all fine…it’s just that…my husband shaved off his beard.
I’ve known my husband, The Sailboat King, for 18 years, almost exactly. We met at the end of summer, 1994, when he came up to a College and Career retreat at the Bible camp where I worked and where he spent parts of every summer as a kid. Lots of my friends were excited that he was coming – they’d grown up with him and they liked him. I remember one friend dragging me over to the dining hall because she wanted to say “hi” to him. I couldn’t care less, but I followed along. I can’t remember if she introduced us, but I do remember that he and his pals were being crazy and loud (an indicator of things to come) and I was eager to get out of there as quickly as I could.
Two days later, when packing up for the journey home, an hour away, the guy I was hitching a ride with told me, “I’m going to go with S, M, and C out on S’s parent’s pontoon boat, wanna come?” Well, as I had no other ride, the obvious answer was, “Yes,” despite the fact that my sister and her family had arrived that afternoon at my parent’s and I hadn’t seen them in like three years.
I had one distinct thought as I sat on the boat, watching three grown boys tubing in the water and having a fantastic time: “I can’t believe how obnoxious these people are.”
Six months later, I was sitting down with the camp director looking at applications for camp staff for the upcoming summer. He mentioned The Sailboat King’s name and I had to ask him who he was talking about. He told me, and images of an afternoon spent on S’s boat came to mind and I think I literally cringed. Ten minutes later I had to be reminded of his name yet again when we were discussing the available maintenance position. My one comment about him, “He’s kind of obnoxious, isn’t he?”
A few months later I shook his hand as I walked past him, on my way to ring the bell on our first day of staff training. “Glad to have you with us,” I said, weirdly and officiously.
He still teases me about that.
So, the summer progressed. I remember wondering why he joined us for our Fourth of July party at someone’s house. Even though he’d been invited, it seemed funny because his best friend hadn’t been able to join us. Why would he bother to come? I mean, we’re his friends…but he doesn’t usually hang out with us! I enjoyed him, though. Discovered that there was more to him than most obnoxious twenty-one year-olds.
We started to talk more after that and I began to revise my opinions of him.
We went canoeing a couple times. Ate lunch at the same table. And then, after I’d been sick one week and feeling pretty awful, I stumbled out on the last day of camp, took down the flag from the flag pole, and brought it to the drawer where we kept it, folded nicely in its triangle of red, white and blue.
I opened the drawer. And found a bouquet of roses.
“Whose roses are these and why are they in my drawer?” I asked out loud, and, looking up, discovered that many of my friends were standing around – comrades in some secret scheme – watching me, even photographing this momentous occasion.
“They’re yours, dummy,” one supportive friend replied.
And, sure enough, The Sailboat King had gotten me roses.
I continued to revise my opinions of said King.
A few months later, engaged and madly in love, I asked him to shave off his beard, just so I could see what he looked like without it.
The first words out of my mouth when he emerged from the shaving?
“Okay. You can grow it back, now.”
Nearly 16 years of marriage later, he has once again shaved if off. But this time he did it for someone else. My dearest Sailboat King is playing Harold Hill in our local community theater production of The Music Man and our director – I say “our” because our entire family is in the musical – has asked him to shave so he can see which version of “Harold” he likes best.
I like the bearded version best.
The clean-shaven version stresses me out. It’s like waking up beside a stranger. Like kissing sandpaper…because, of course, his beard is already growing back.
Which means my stress is temporary.
Which is nice.
A facebook friend told me I should just enjoy it. Go with it. Have fun with this stranger.
The truth, of course, is that he’s still my Sailboat King, shave or no shave. He still makes me smile even when I’m cross and he still gets my heart beating faster with a single glance.
And that’s good.
So long as it doesn’t lead to a heart attack or something.
The truth is, after 15 years and 11 months of marriage, I love him so much more than I did that day I found my roses. And he, I am thrilled to say, loves me, too.
And puts up with my imperfections
Which are myriad.
Beard or no beard, there’s no one else I’d rather wake up with.