The Little Brown-Skinned Girl in My Marriage


In my mind I’ve named her “Shey.”

I’m sad to say that I’m unsure of Shey’s ethnic background. If I had to take a guess I would probably say that she’s Hispanic. Though, she could be Italian. Or Indian. Or even a light skinned African-American. It doesn’t matter, really, other than to set the scene for what Shey’s role in my life has been over the last several months. I want you to know Shey the way that I know Shey and embrace her as I have no matter her race, creed, or political preference. Shey should be treated the way all people deserve to be treated; plastic or not. 

Several months ago a little brown-skinned figurine of a school-aged girl showed up in my two-year-old daughter’s backpack. It was a Friday afternoon and I was muddling through my end-of-the-week chore of emptying out the kids’ schoolbags when I stumbled with a giggle upon my soon-to-be Shey.

“Bebe… where did you get this little girl?”

“I got her in my pakpak, Mommy.”

“No baby, I know she’s in your backpack, but where did she come from?”

“My pakpak. She come from my Dora pakpak with Dora on it.”

“No, I know, Bea, but whe… ugh, never mind...” I sighed with an air of “aw, fuck it” in my tone, and welcomed future Shey to our humble abode with her very own living space right next to Strawberry Shortcake. Never did I expect to see the likes of Shey again because for the most part if it’s smaller than four inches, lives in our house and doesn’t crawl, it’s got about as good a chance of disappearing as the future wife of a guy with the last name of Peterson. But not this little Indihispanitalian black girl… not Shey. She was here for the greater good, once again proving that it isn’t what a person says, but rather what a person does that shows the world, or better yet, those they care about, what matters most in life.

2012 has been… hmm, how can I put this so that it still sounds eloquent while giving the impact of the severity of what I’m trying to say? Ah! Got it… 2012 has been FUCKED. THE FUCK. UP. It’s been a bastard of a year professionally (present situation excluded) and a g*ddamned jackass of a year personally. I don’t even know how it’s been health-wise since I’m way too freaked out to visit a doctor because I just know he’s going to tell me I’ve got polio or Tourette’s or some shit. Needless to say, I got an early-bird discount on noisemakers, party hats, and confetti, and may just start ringing 2013 in by the end of November. But through most of this shitty year, my husband and I have managed to make it without killing one another, killing anyone else, or, as Shey was about to prove, killing our senses of humor. 

“Babe, can you get me some Ibuprofen?” my husband yelled into the bathroom one weekday evening after an especially rough night with the kids. “Yep. Two or three?” I asked as I reached for the door of the medicine cabinet. “Nine,” he exclaimed, which I knew meant he needed three. “And why wouldn’t he need three when Beatrice crapped her pants an hour earlier after twenty-five straight minutes of reading to her while she sat on the potty?” I thought. “Hell, why wouldn’t he need nine? Why wouldn’t he need a valium chaser? God knows I would do...” But those thoughts were interrupted by the roars of my own laughter as I saw little Shey staring at me from a tiny space between the toothpaste and Bea’s pink-eye medication.

“What’s so funny?” Todd asked from the other room but I knew that he knew why I was laughing and so I played the game the way it was intended.

“Nothing. Nothing. Just thinking about that Daily Show skit. Jason Jones kills me. I hope he never leaves,” I replied as I slipped Shey into my pocket and walked out with three Ibuprofen, thinking about where to place Shey next.

Years ago, when we first moved in together, Todd and I would play this exact same game only with a little wooden “H” about an inch big. I would put it in one of his dress socks in the back of his drawer. He would stick it in a yet-to-be-opened bar of bath soap. I would slip it in between the pages of his Utne Reader magazine. He would hide it in my summer shade pressed powder compact. The rule was to put it somewhere that wasn’t ridiculously obvious so that the person would find it eventually, but also somewhere so that enough time would pass that they would forget about it for awhile. The second rule was that you could never tell the other person when you found it – they would know that you did ONLY when they found it back, themselves. The objective? Well, that’s the best part, and it’s the part that makes me tear up when I think about my awesome new friend, Shey. The objective was to prove that words weren’t always needed and that actions –even simple ones—could speak louder than any email, telephone call, social media post, or even, sometimes, face-to-face conversation. That doing was worth more than saying, because often in a marriage or in a partnership or any relationship you find yourselves being the politicians of your own lives. You talk such a good game because you believe it when you say it, and because you want the others in your life to believe it, too. And while your intentions are always best when they’re said, your legacy is determined by what you did or didn’t do in the end. It’s a simple, simple rule that is too often forgotten in the land, in the law, and in love.

The little wooden H game went on for a while until we decided to have kids and move to a bigger house. It was lost in the move, never to be found again, along with a fair amount of other things that were lost once the kids came along. That’s not an uncommon tale among those strong enough to know what it’s like to be married with children. The uncommon tale would be to hear that what was lost was not necessarily found, but rather, replaced by something bigger, and better, and brighter, and more meaningful.

Enter, one very small brown-skinned girl with pigtails of plastic and a shirt the color of sunlight, currently hiding in a place that my husband will find probably within the next week or two when it’s time to pay the bills. And when he does, I hope he smiles, but even more so, I hope he knows - because I showed him - that a life without him in it would be dull and meaningless, and worst of all, Sheyless. 

www.EveofForty.com


Counting Down to the Middle-Aged "F" word

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