Monday, April 8, 2013

As it is an odd year, we did not celebrate the “Eight Days of Marci” this season, as we have in previous years, much ado, and with some success. I didn’t want the concept to go stale, nor did I want the kids to get any spectacular ideas (last year Serena asked, “Next year can we do the fourteen days of Serena?”) So, since it was an early Easter, with The Anniversary crammed in there the same weekend, I let the extra seven holidays slide.

With all due respect, and to keep it interesting by falling back on the obvious for once, I just went for the Easy Three, the Great Triumvirate of girlfriend gifts: flowers, chocolate, and diamonds. I’m awesome that way. And the mommy deserves it, after all these years.

The flowers were easy. I had them in the yard. Yanked as many as looked nice out of the ground and created a lavish end-to-end display around her primary work station, the kitchen sink. It really looked great, and impressed the mother-in-law. As a bonus, it was cheap and easy (if you don’t count the water bill, fertilizer costs, and the back-breaking toil of weekend after weekend for a season and a half.)

The chocolates were a snap. My dearly departed mother worked over 25 years at See’s Candies, (the best chocolates in the world) and I know the place like I know the Stone beer menu. I stopped in and deftly picked up a fixed-variety pound of dark chocolates. Mrs. Ditchman really digs the dark chocolates. Bonus: I get to have a few since the box is too big for a decent person to pound in one sitting.

And the diamonds. Diamonds! I’m made of money! I’ve bought jewelry for my wife two times in ten years -and one of those times was the engagement ring- so I figure I’m about due. The other time was a pair of quarter-carat diamond studs -tiny little pissant grains- for Christmas that year after we got married, when I built that secret patio cover and pocketed the profit to shower her with gifts, (though I didn’t quite make enough on the job to afford the surprise! Mission-style bedroom dresser we’d had our eyes on.) Anyway, a few years later one of the little diamond studs went down the drain in the Jazzercise locker room, and then the remaining stud went into the bathroom drawer, where it languished lonely and unattended for several years. Until I got the big idea, recently, to repatriate the rock with a new mate.

I found the old box, even. Plopped it in there and went down to Robbins Bros and asked if they remembered me. They did! I showed it to them and they smiled at its cuteness. I asked for another, and they proceeded to talk me into an upgrade. So I went full bore, and am not even the least bit ashamed to admit that I splurged for the one-third carat, giving the original as a trade-in. Now, I can’t really see the .08 difference between the diamonds, but I’m sure it’s there. I can feel it in the wallet. Sparkles like all get-out. (Not my wallet, the diamond.) They even gave me a new box!

So I was ready for Mrs. Ditchman’s birthday. So was Lincoln. He got up at 5AM to work the scene, and Mommy was there. When I eventually arose, I announced to my dear wife that it looked like her birthday had gotten off to a bad start, and how disappointing. Then she had to go off to volunteer for the 1st grade class, where our first grader suddenly announced she was sick, but Mommy was there (literally.) Brought her home and then ran back out for a pedicure, only to discover that she was coming down with a similar stomach virus. So the day was shot down before it got its boots on, and we hadn’t even gotten to the sushi dinner, which was soon cancelled by the queasiness, as was the fine wine. After a quick non-dinner, I heard calling from the upstairs and it was the Mommy with the tone in her voice that she reserves for when a baby throws up on her, so I ran up to find that, yes, a baby had, in fact, thrown up on her. And it was a putrid kind of barf, too, that trailed from room to room and down her shoulder and onto her jeans. Lincoln had waited until after his bath and until he was fully dressed in his clean pajamas to do the dispiriting deed, so the bath and dressing all had to be repeated. Later, one of the cats was observed licking up said barf.

So, without a word about it, we had cake. A nice little ice-cream cake. And the other children demanded that Mommy have as many candles as she was old. Now, don’t get excited, but I’m not saying the number. Let’s just say it took more than one box, and we had to resort to a couple Hanukkah candles and a few extra votives to fill out the bill and satisfy the young counting crew. And it was a small cake. But don’t worry, I got it on video, and, though she was not amused by the massive stoking of candlefire that her old age demanded, she was still able to satisfy the crowd by smiling politely and blowing it all out in one full, I’m-done-with-this-frikin-day, exhale. So I got the rest of the kids to bed, and did not answer the small queries about the vomitous smell coming from the hall.

I took a shower. I slyly pocketed away the diamonds, which were yet to be revealed. I went downstairs to finish my glass of wine and pretend to enjoy Dancing With The Stars with my beautiful, but enervate wife, on the couch. Still feeling a little sick, she was not in the mood for any chocolates, even dark ones. She said that this was a pretty lame birthday, and a little while later I pulled out the diamond earrings, which made her smile, weakly. It didn’t really fix anything, to be honest, but she looked great wearing them, and I think she liked the gesture. Maybe I should have gone for the full half-carat.

A little while later, in bed, Mrs. Ditchman sighed and rolled over, and I pulled out the book I’m reading, Moby Dick. I’m on chapter 49. It begins:

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own...

I thought this was pretty funny, in light of it all, and I turned to share it with Mrs. Ditchman, but she was asleep and away, and done with it all.

So it was a queer time. A strange mixed affair. A bad day. There have been worse days, but it was a birthday, so the powers of demoralization were in full effect. But I have to say, she gave the day her full energies, worked hard and owned it. Saw the joke and punched back, twice as hard. She never backed down, never gave up, blew out the candles with full lung and here, now, she lay asleep, fortifying her reserves for another day, another year, the rest of her life. Maybe it all is a big joke, but it was her joke, and she was going to own it. And I admire her for that.

With the little diamond earrings, I happen to think she’s gonna look good doing it.

Melville continues:

...However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke.