I went to my girlfriend’s apartment. She opened the door and the smell of bacon came pouring out. There were two pounds of bacon in her oven. At the time, I did not know you could cook bacon en masse in the oven. Likewise, I had no idea what any one person needed two pounds of bacon for.
“Oh I don’t,” she told me. “I need the drippings.”
We were married within a year.
It has not been the easiest time — now almost thirteen years. Within three months of marriage, both of us at twenty-five, she had a double mastectomy and I my own lesser surgeries. It was a novel way to start a marriage.
But now we have two wonderful children who always delight and surprise us. Our great controversy now is whether to finally tell the seven year old it is “route guidance” and not “Ralph guidance.” It is so endearing, but she cannot figure out why Ralph has a female voice. The four year old presents his own, all boy, problems. Waking Dad up at sunrise by body slamming is not as appealing as it might sound. Just the other day he surmised that if the sandman leaves sand in your eyes at night, the boogie man must be responsible for the boogers in your nose.
Through it all I travel a great deal. Last month, according to Delta, I traveled 13,500 miles. While I am away, my wife is the full time mother hen. She is ever present in the kids’ lives. Even when I am home, I work three jobs so she can be home with the kids. They bake, they play outside, she sews an assortment of clothes, quilts, and travel bags. She shuttles them to school, ukulele lessons, and doctors’ appointments.
While carrying our now four year old, my wife decided she needed exercise. She took up skateboarding. Her doctor was impressed. A few weeks ago, having spent the last few years growing her hair out, she cut it off, gave it locks of love, and came home with some not very subtle purple highlights. It was actually pretty awesome.
Some moms join the junior league and introduce their children to high society. Some moms let their children run wild through the woods and streets. My children are fortunate to have a mom who rides her skateboard with them, sits out under a tress sewing binding onto quilts she’s made while the kids play, and makes homemade buttermilk biscuits as an ultimate comfort food. When she has quiet time, the sounds of the sewing machine fill the house, interspersed the with the subtle sound of hands on a keyboard as she searches Pinterest for new projects, catches up with friends on Facebook, or browses the Pioneer Woman’s website for new recipes.
The kids’ drawings have been turned to needlepoint creations as teachers’ gifts. Our bedspread is homemade. Our garden delivers the herbs she planted for our food, along with assorted kinds of mint for juleps. I had to start going to a trainer because of her cooking. The other day talking to Governor Perry of Texas, she overheard me ask him why something in Texas was so great. Without missing a beat, she answered for him, “Because they all pack heat.” This is the wife who, a few years ago, only wanted a shotgun for Christmas. She wants to go shoot skeet with the governor of Texas and get another tattoo with her friends from church. Now she has the kids all wanting motorcycles, so long as she too can have one. That may be a bridge too far in our relationship.
My wife is my partner and the manager of the household while I am in front of a television camera or behind a microphone or keyboard. With her I have learned that the process of marriage is not about being happy, but about becoming one soul together. We become, slowly and sometimes with difficulty, an extension of each other hoping to draw out each other’s better nature.
I worked late Wednesday night. Up before the sun or the rooster and not done until the sun had set, barely seeing the kids or my wife though my office and studio for television and radio are all behind sound proof doors in our own home, I finally finished all I had to do. I opened the sound proof doors and the smells of home cooking poured in.
There in the kitchen, at the end of the day and darkness settling in outside, was a pile of homemade biscuits, grits, a bigger pile of bacon, and pajama clad smiles from the little ones. Breakfast for supper is comfort food in our house. It would not have happened but for my wife, my best friend, and my children’s mother — all one person indispensable to my children and me.