Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Love, and a Jar of Pickles

Not that anyone will ever ask me for this sort of advice, but if someone were to inquire about my thoughts on the secret to a successful marriage, I would say that the answer lies in a giant jar of pickles.

My last trimester has been an endless battle of wills between me and pickles. I crave them all day and in at least one instance, definitely ate half a jar in one sitting. I am fully aware that the sodium is not good for me or Baby, and I have tried to beat back the desire to eat three or four with every meal. But something enticing about the crunch and the delightfully salty taste has me wearing a path to the fridge several times a day.

As Mother's Day approached, I instructed Chef Matt to forgo flowers or any of the other "usuals" of the holiday. All I wanted was a nice meal out with him and our kids; I did not necessarily need a gift to stress his appreciation of my motherhood. In response, he presented me with a several-gallon jar of enormous pickles a few days before. I laughed and could feel the cravings surge.

When Mother's Day actually arrived, it was a day of epic Kitchen Widowhood for both of us. Matt worked a 12-hour day, and just the right 12 hours to prevent a family meal that was not noodles and red sauce thrown together at the last minute.

As I sat with the kids, eating cold leftovers, I felt selfish and irrational -- what was the benefit for us of my husband missing major holidays with his family, working unexpectedly extended hours, and leaving us minimal hours to nuture our marriage? When he got home, he was equally downtrodden at the pattern of loss of time with his wife and kids. We stared at each other, trying to make sense of the difficulties that sprout from the business that he loves and sometimes bury us in undergrowth.

And then I thought about the jar of pickles and realized that despite the frustrations that come with this business, our marriage is significantly nurtured. The pickles were a gift with far greater value than jewelry or flowers; they demonstrate that despite our limited time together, he makes time to listen and understand. He knows that what I needed or wanted was not an expensive gift but something to ease the last few weeks of a long, exhausting pregnancy.

Last year, I surprised him with a trip to the French Laundry. This year, he surprised me with a giant jar of pickles. I would argue that his gift is more demonstrative of the health of our marriage. A trip to wine country is flashy and extravagant, but the industrial jar of dill pickles is like a homemade greeting card: original, heartfelt, and the product of intimate understanding of what makes someone happy.

Ultimately, Mother's Day is just a day. Long hours are a fact of many people's lives. It is the concerted effort of spouses to make it work, despite roadblocks, that reflect a good marriage, not a meal out on a holiday. Everyone has their own jar of pickles; it is just a matter of recognizing the significance of such a gift when it appears.

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