50 Ways To Say I Love You

 In honor of my husband’s 50th birthday, which I’m thinking of as a season, not just a day, I want to share something I wrote for him a while back.  I came up a little short on the birthday plans for this big milestone. But, really, what other gift is there but love? (And, Nicholas, you’ve always complained that you are the more demonstrative spouse in this partnership. Well, how’s this for ‘demonstrative?’…)

SO… you want to be like Nicholas?

  • Be good at lots of things.  For starters, get a black belt in Karate; win awards; become a writer; comfort the sick and dying; become a mesmerizing public speaker; learn carpentry; obtain a patent; make an impact on an emerging field; attend three ivy-league universities; teach Greek mythology to your children; master the art of swaddling babies.
  • Always hold the hands of your dying patients because you believe no one should die alone.
  • When you are young and naive, try to get an article published in a prestigious journal.  Receive a rejection letter from the editor that is not only relentlessly negative but also mean-spirited and personally hostile.  Refuse to take ‘no’ from the mean editor.  Inform your skeptical wife that, “any feedback from the mean editor is better than no feedback!”  Eagerly spout clichés like, “the sale begins when the customer slams the door.”  Gradually and masterfully win over the mean editor.  Eventually get the mean editor to make a 180 degree turn of opinion, at which point he will publish your research in his prestigious journal, making it the lead article and accompanied by a lavishly admiring editorial.
  • Make this a pattern in your life.  Be amazed by how many nay-sayers there are in the world.
  • While shopping for groceries, notice the woefully inefficient organization of the shelves.  Mentally re-organize everything to maximize efficiency.  Stop yourself and worry about why you are wasting time mentally fixing grocery store aisles.
  • Work as a hospice doctor on the south side of Chicago, making long house calls on weekends.  Bring bags of groceries and toys to your impoverished patients and smile when the families ask if, “your people are black, too, right, Doc?” because they never imagined a white doctor coming to their homes.
  • Never, ever get sick. But when you do, be super-theatrical about it, such as requiring IV antibiotics for a week.
  • Build a tree house from scratch for your children.  Insist on making it the biggest and tallest tree house in town.  Its size and height will render it virtually useless and when the leaves come down in October, it will resemble a Gulag watchtower.  Watch your children glow with pride.
  • Hire a crew of Polish men to fix your house in Chicago.  Attempt to learn Polish.  Spend a lot of time watching and admiring their carpentry skills.  In gratitude, bring them cases of Polish vodka.  (But only on Fridays, so they won’t get drunk and injure themselves on the job.)
  • Make this a pattern in your life, admiring and respecting people from all walks of life.
  • When on a three-day business trip, send 15 emails to your wife, all titled, “Missing you” but carefully numbered one through 15 in case the order is unclear or an email might have been lost.  Express indignation when your wife asks if you are actually working on said business trip.
  • Express surprise that colleagues like being away from their families. Follow your wife around the house a lot until she asks you, gently, to find a few hobbies. Affect an occasional hangdog expression when you are dismissed.
  • Believe in God, kind of, sort of.
  • Compose and compulsively re-order college application spreadsheets for your kids. Let them caricature your math help as, “My way or nothing.” Drive them crazy with your persnickety attention to detail. Smile inwardly when they eventually thank you.
  • Secretly think that Neil Diamond is really underrated as an artist.
  • Insist that the “Notebook” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” are the best movies ever made.  No, really.  Okay… maybe “Die Hard”… Fine.  “The Seven Samurai.” Express mild surprise that people are incredulous about the Notebook fixation.
  • Read Jane Austen on your 40th birthday and discover to your amazement that Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest novels ever written.  Watch the ten-hour BBC version on video with your wife.  Twice.
  • Officiate, with your spouse, at the wedding of close friends. Find it life-transforming.
  • Believe that, on balance, there is still more good in the world than bad.
  • Do elaborate science experiments when your kids are young and help them post their observations on the walls of the second floor.  Start taking over the walls of the whole house until your spouse protests.
  • Know shockingly little about music. Regret this. Express your ignorance freely.
  • In a moment of weakness, tell the dogs you love them.  Have these moments of weakness on a fairly routine basis.
  • Claim that you’re fed up with teaching because it’s thankless, difficult, exhausting etc. But construct your life so that you are always seeking new opportunities to teach and to become a better teacher.
  • Delight in finding eventual vindication for your unpopular and/or crackpot ideas.
  • Receive threatening or crazy emails from random people in response to your controversial research. Ignore advice not to ‘engage.’ Win over the weirdos with your kindness and respect. Call yourself a ‘retail politician’ and answer hundreds of random  communications. Fairly quickly, grudgingly acknowledge that this is not sustainable since you are not, actually, a retail politician.
  • Travel to all corners of the world but secretly prefer having a scotch on your porch at sunset.
  • Experience one crushing disappointment in life, which is your failure to grow edible fruit trees.  View this as a temporary setback.
  • Cry when Charlie finds the Golden Ticket.
  • When your wife backs into the only nice car you’ve ever owned, the day after you bought it, causing $4,000 of damage (after previously backing into your Taurus, Odyssey, and garage), don’t get mad at all.  Reassure her, as she cries, that it’s really no big deal.  Tell her it’s touching and affirming that she is so upset about ruining your expensive new car.  Tell her it’s a “grand, romantic thing,” this fiasco,  “just like an O’Henry story.”
  • Be a giant of a man.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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