You know that older couple that holds hands and makes googly-eyes at each other in public? Birds twitter, butterflies dance around their heads and adorable baby woodland creatures play tag behind them as they stroll through the park. All is right with the world as they turn to each other and, without uttering a single syllable, break into knowing smiles.
My husband, Mark, and I have been married for over thirty-six years. Although we have never spotted Thumper following us through our neighborhood, I do find that we now say those three little words to each other more and more each day: What? Huh? Sorry?
We often turn to each other — searching our partner’s face for clues to a missed message. We smile because we understand that sometimes the comment just isn’t worth the effort it would take to repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
A few months back my husband and I decided to try a new Jersey Mike’s Subs that had opened in Waukesha. We joined a long cue of patrons waiting to place an order. As we inched our way closer to the register I strained to read the menu hanging behind the counter. From my vantage point the lettering was just slightly smaller than the bottom line of my optometrist’s eye chart. I squinted my way through their cleverly named offerings. Did I fancy a Jersey Shore? How about an American Classic? Should I throw caution to the wind and dive in with a Big Kahuna?
My husband jabbed me in the back.
“He wants your order.”
“Okay, you don’t have to yell,” I said. “I’m not deaf you know.”
A voice called from behind the glass workstation, “Whaatkinimakefurutoday?”,
I felt the impatient shift of a hungry mob behind me. I panicked. “Give me a ham and cheese,” I blurted.
“Whatkindabreat?” This guy didn’t just talk fast, he was gunning for a Guinness World Record.
Mark answered for me, telling the sandwich maker that plain Italian was fine. I nodded in agreement.
”Yawantitmykswa?” I swear this kid mumbled at warp speed.
“Um, no, don’t bother microwaving it,” I smiled. “I’ll take it cold.”
Finally! I had caught his query the first time he’d asked. I was getting good at this.
A blue baseball cap slowly arose from behind a meat slicer. A confused set of eyes peered over the stainless steel searching my face for a clue. I heard my husband’s laugh. Turning to ask him what he found so funny, I was met with a dozen people either chuckling or giving me one of those Aw, you poor, sweet, old thing smiles.
Mark cupped his hands into a megaphone as he loudly enunciated each syllable, “He asked if you wanted it Mike’s Way.” He was enjoying this entirely too much.
In my haste I had failed to read the note at the bottom of the menu board that explained that each sandwich was topped with an array of garnishes and condiments which the chain dubbed Mike’s Way.
Deciding to take our order to go, Mark and I settled on a damp wooden bench in a familiar park. Between bites, I commented that my selection was pretty darn tasty and asked him what he thought of his. My dear husband smiled at me, raised his eyebrows and gave a few nods. He had no clue what I’d just said but I didn’t call him on it. An angry crow’s caw broke the steady noise of traffic just beyond the parkway. A small white moth weaved its way between tall thistles and marsh grass.
Mark nudged my thigh and pointed to a pair of scrawny grey squirrels that had stopped dead in their tracks just feet in front of us. Nervous tails flicking, they stared us down before scurrying away – climbing to the safety of a golden maple. Mark and I turned to each other and without uttering a single syllable, broke into comfortable smiles.
All was right in the world.