Our wedding, Santa Barbara, California, August 8, 1987
This coming Saturday, Sandra and I will be celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary. It’s hard to fathom that by December, just four months from now, we’ll have completed a full 33 and a third passages around the sun together — married for a third of a century, and together for a year more than that. It’s been a great ride, all 20 billion miles of it (almost!), and I hope we still have more than a few good orbits left on our journey through space and time together.
We’ve had our ups and downs, of course, as on any merry-go-round, but today I’m recalling a few memories that put the durability of our marriage into the perspective of how astonishing it is that, despite these, Sandra not only went ahead and said “I do,” but then stuck with me for a few billion more miles.
The first of these “stress tests” of Sandra’s tolerance came in the first week or two after we met. We’d gone shopping together, and my son Adam, then 11, was with us. We were in the car, about to leave, when Sandra remembered something she’d forgotten to pick up. She went back into the mall “for just a couple of minutes,” leaving Adam and me in the car. This seemed like a great opportunity for a little practical joke. So as soon as Sandra was out of sight, I moved the car into the next aisle of the parking garage. From our new spot, we could see where we’d just been parked, and we waited for her to come back and not find us where she knew we’d be. Sure enough, she walked up to our old parking spot, found it empty, looked all around and threw her hands in the air in bewilderment before I finally called out and showed her where we were. Adam thought the joke was hilarious. Sandra, God bless her, was a good sport and joined in the laughter.
With Manu Iki (Little Bird), a sweet one, predecessor to Birdzilla (not so sweet!)
On another occasion, Sandra and I were washing the car together. It was parked in our carport, whose outside wall was a masonry lattice. This was an ideal arrangement for snaking the hose, attached to an outdoor spigot, through an opening so the spray could easily reach every part of the car. When we were ready to begin by wetting the car down, I went to the spigot, outside the lattice, to turn the water on. For some reason I was also holding the nozzle, standing just inches from Sandra, inside the lattice, waiting to hose down the car. Gesturing toward the business end of the hose, Sandra innocently said, “Let me have it.” So I did — spraying her through the lattice at point-blank range. I don’t remember which of us laughed harder.
“Let me have it” has never sounded the same to either of us.
The hose incident was pure spontaneity, of course, but it didn’t take long before I found an opportunity to pull another prank, much less spontaneous. This time Sandra, her daughter Melissa, then 10, and I were out for a Sunday breakfast. (At this point, my two kids were back on the East Coast with their mother.) After a while, Sandra excused herself to visit the ladies’ room. “Watch this,” I said to Melissa, and poured a little soy sauce into Sandra’s cup of coffee. (A small bottle of shoyu — the Japanese word for the condiment, known universally in Hawaii — can be found with the salt and pepper on virtually every restaurant table in the Aloha State.) When Sandra sat down again a few minutes later, she picked up the cup, took a sip … and made a huge grimace. Like Adam, Melissa loved the prank. And again, Sandra was a great sport. I got her a fresh cup of coffee, and all was good.
Restaurants, I found, are a great place for mischief. A few times when we were out for a meal with one or more of our kids, and Sandra would leave the table for a few minutes, I’d pick up her half-finished plate, give it to a young co-conspirator to hold on his or her lap, under the table, and remove fork, knife, spoon, napkin and even chair to make it look as if no one had been sitting where she’d just been. That always got a good laugh — including from Sandra.
Restaurant surprises weren’t always efforts to play a joke on Sandra. The best one I ever pulled off was an elaborate surprise dinner party to celebrate her 50th birthday.
And Sandra’s inevitably being a good sport in spite of my mischief is hardly the only reason I cherish her. If ever there was a moment when she revealed her true colors — pure gold! — it was back in 1991-92, when, between jobs, I tried my hand at real estate. A friend had suggested it to me as a slam-dunk way to make a living, and when I discussed the idea with Sandra, she told me she thought real estate and sales of any kind would be a very poor fit for me. Nonetheless, I gave it a try and worked hard, determined to succeed. One morning almost a year later — I can sometimes be a slow learner! — I woke up to the clear realization that I’d been chasing a mirage. I hadn’t earned a nickel, though I’d spent more than a few. None of the “almost transactions” I’d been trying to make happen had panned out. I turned in my resignation the same day. And Sandra, God bless her, neither then nor at any time since, said “I told you so.” A saint! I married a saint!
And a trophy wife too!
Sandra accepts neither title, but I know better. She is, in sum, the love of my life. And on that, we’re in complete agreement.
Happy anniversary, Sweetheart! Stick with me for another few billion miles!