My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this weekend in Strasbourg, France in the oft-disputed Alsace region on the German border. You could tell the area had been owned over the years by both the Germans and French – many streets signs were in German, the language was French, the cathedral architecture and much of the food was German, but the palace, pastries and chocolates were French. It was a nice combination: German rigor and order coupled with French warmth and chocolates! But I digress.
My wife is South African British and I am American. In the early months of our marriage she surprised me almost every day with some new idiomatic British expression, to the point where I was soon able to understand the humor in Rowan Atkinson’s riotously funny Black Adder series. For example, when Hugh Laurie talked about discussing ‘LBW rules’ with his date, I was able, after only a few months of blissful matrimony, to laugh along with everyone else. By the way, LBW stands for ‘Leg Before Wicket’ – a cricket expression.
Now, after nine years of marriage I know just when to say ‘Bob’s your uncle’ and in exactly what kind of rainstorm to exclaim ‘it’s a regular monkey’s wedding out there, darling!’ But two of her expressions in particular have become favorites of mine: the first is, ‘there’s a lid for every pot’ and the second is ‘you must cut your cloth accordingly.’ Both have resulted in long philosophical discussions between us.
The first expression is usually said when discussing someone’s marriage prospects – the point being that the world is full of God’s children, each unique and amazing in their own right. For everyone who tries to live a basically good life, there is surely someone of the opposite sex who would appreciate him or her for their innate qualities – there is a lid for every pot. The second expression is very apropos to this age of the world because it speaks to living within your budget – to cut your cloth according to how much cloth you have. Don’t spend above your means. Don’t put on airs. You have to make lifestyle choices in line with the reality of your situation.
Finally, my wife has taught me many things about life and love, and in so doing has caused me to appreciate stories in ways I never have before. For example, there are scenes in Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms that when I was younger, I wondered why they were in there. They were boring. Frederick and Catherine going for a walk in the snow and sitting on a bench, talking about nothing, then going back to their apartment. Why did Hemingway waste pen and paper to write that scene? It did nothing. Said nothing. But later I recognized that that scene accurately captured many of my wife’s and my favorite times together. Not doing anything exciting. Not saying anything profound. Just being together, sharing the mundanities of life, feeling peaceful in the quiet of a softly falling snow. A somewhat timeless feeling. What could be better? Oh, except on the way back to our apartment maybe stopping off at a local café to have a hot chocolate – one of those hot 4-blend chocolates so thick it could float a horseshoe, with a little wafer and a chocolate square on the side. With Kimmy, of course.
Zurich, July 5th 2012