Now don't go getting your panties in a wad with the fact that I called them ignorant. It's not a slight, it's a state of being. It's actually a pretty enviable state of being....sometimes.
Cabin fever is a hell of a thing. It does different things to different people. After two weeks of sick kids, sick parents, and tropical storms our family was at it's breaking point. Jackson, who is normally an extremely well-behaved child, was starting to act out. The confinement was apparently causing him to lose his ever-loving mind. Behavioral examples include trying to chastise me and remind me that Matthew is only a baby and shushing Amanda for making, what he felt, was too much noise. He also had a major meltdown regarding the clothes Amanda picked out for him to wear to church. This is not our child. In turn, Matthew was inventing new games like "Climb on the Kitchen Table" or "Flip Over the Back of the Couch." Both of these games would surely send us straight to the emergency room. So after our afternoon naps Amanda and I were inventing ANY reason we could think of to get out of the house for a while. This consisted of a trip to Target.
During this trip Jackson vehemently expressed his displeasure over the fact that today would not be new toy day. He was also working out the kinks on some new ways to talk back. Joy. But not to be outdone Matthew decided that he was now old enough to walk around the store by himself. No longer would be satisfied as a prisoner to the shopping cart. To announce this to the ENTIRE store, he melts down in spectacular fashion, which sends Amanda and I into a tizzy of attempted appeasement. We tried toys, no luck. We even grabbed a banana off the shelf and peeled it right there, but the screaming only intensified. OK kid, you win. So, I let him out and he immediately smiles, turns, and sprints as fast as he can. He knows exactly where he's going. It's a quaint little place called "away." While trying to herd him, tell Jackson no, and pick up a few essential items, we decide that it's time to hit the checkout line. As we take our place in line I hardly noticed the couple in front of us. I was more concerned with trying to keep Matthew from asphyxiating on the banana that he's half-heartedly chewing. As he's covering his face in spit and smashed banana, Jackson is insistently requesting every toy in the checkout line.
By the way, there is nothing that so expertly exemplifies the evil nature of marketing than the cheap, crappy toys that litter the checkout line of most major markets. These crooks know that parents have had their resolve whittled to a nub by the constant "I wants" of their children throughout their shopping experience. You can avoid the toy section, but you can't avoid the checkout line. To the kids, these junky toys represent the last hope of toy salvation in a cold, dark toyless world. So they put them there, right at a kid's eye level and plaster a cheap $1 price so the kid can guilt you to death for being a cheap bastard. It's just evil.
Anyway, I begin noticing that they couple in front of us are giggling back and forth and petting each other a little too much in what might be the most intrusive display of flirting I've ever seen. I begin watching closer and notice that they have shiny new wedding rings on, and are surely newlyweds. That's when she turned around and glanced at the mob behind her in line. Her face quickly changed to shock and something that resembled fear. I then realized that to her we must have represented the Four Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse. There we stood covered in the spit and banana mush of a child squirming to get out my arms, and screaming at me for not obliging. While the older child is tugging at my pants every four seconds saying, "Dad, can I please have this fake plastic camera filled with gummy worms? It's really awesome." I gave her a slight grin that said "you have NO idea," and giggled on the inside. Then I noticed the modest number of items in their basket. A tiny little pack of ground beef, a twin pack of thin cut pork chops, a small bottle of detergent (I didn't even know they made a small bottle), and some other single serving size items. This coupled with the fact that they were acting like they hit puberty yesterday sealed in my mind that they were definitely newlyweds.
This put me in a reminiscent mood. Amanda and I had a very unique experience as newlyweds. The day after we married, we moved thirteen hours away from everyone we knew. It was the best thing that ever happened to us. Not for some lame reason about forcing us to make it on our own. We were just happy that no one was there to make fun of us for the fact that we had NO IDEA how to make it on our own. The last thing we needed was a family member giggling as we bought our tiny groceries or turned every household repair into a mission from God. That's the thing about newlyweds. It's the grown-up version of playing house. Every manly type task you do immediately puts you on a "Best Husband Ever" pedestal. You begin developing cute little inside jokes, and really learn the mannerisms of the person you married. Amanda and I dated for four and a half years before we married, but there was still so much to learn. For instance, Amanda learned that I am NOT a handy man or professional interior designer. My attempt at hanging stuff on the walls resulted in swiss cheesed drywall and crooked paintings that would randomly crash to the floor.
I also learned a few things. For instance I learned that Amanda had never owned a waffle maker. Some relative gave us a nice one as a wedding gift and one Saturday Amanda woke up early and tried to surprise me with a plate of homemade waffles. In reality I was awoken suddenly by Amanda screaming "Jamey, get in here. I think I messed up. I need HELP!!!" I entered the kitchen to find her standing back six feet from this demon machine as it splattered raw dough all over counter and floor. Apparently when you fill a waffle maker to the brim with cold dough, then turn it on, it is transformed in to the exorcist version of a small appliance. It was cute. There she stood, brokenhearted that her plan had failed in such a grandiose fashion, giggling sweetly because she knew this was one of those moments.
At this point, we've been married for eight years, and we have two kids. We are not grizzled veterans, but this ain't our first rodeo either. We are just hitting our stride. That's what the doe-eyed newlywed in Target couldn't see. All she saw was a frazzled couple, with kids that resembled something out of the Lord of the Flies. She didn't see that we are probably more in love now, than we've ever been because we worked out those newlywed kinks. She also didn't understand what we'd been through over the past two weeks. That look I gave her was another complete ball fake. My kids are angels. She would never be able to tell that hours before our encounter Matthew was snuggled up on my lap peacefully. She would also never guess that Jackson and I spent the previous evening role-playing an encounter between a lion and a porcupine to explain how the porcupine uses both sets of his quills to deter predators. Yep, a porcupine has two sets of quills; a set that pokes you and a set that rattles like a snake.
To us, these kids are examples that we carry around everyday, occasionally bribing with bananas, that show the whole world how much we love each other. But she didn't see it because she's ignorant. If she knew, she would have marveled at the love that Amanda and I share, and would have gone home longing for the connection that our kids represent. Banana mush stains and value sized groceries are the badge of marital bliss. She doesn't get it....but she will.