Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Forty-seven years ago today I married the love of my life.  The ceremony was held in a girl's college dormitory; the champagne reception afterward ran out of champagne -- all in all, an auspicious start to the best 47 years of my life (so far).

Kitty was 16 when I met her.  She was one of those rare people whose inner and outer beauty radiated from like a beacon on a starless night.  I was 19 and smitten, but it did not take long to realize that I was far more than smitten.  What she saw in a goop like me, I'll never know.  More importantly, were the things she didn't see in me -- things that I mistakenly thought were there, the things that held me back.  The day I met her marks the day I began to become a better man.

Four years later we were married.  I had just graduated from college with a useless degree (either English or Comparative Literature; the school never told which and I didn't find out until several years later) and was working as a laborer for my father's construction company.  Kitty was having a difficult time with her classes; that was the year that student protests over Kent State shut her school done for a while, then the anxious bride-to-be faced mid-terms just days before we were married.  Kitty graduated with a teaching degree at a time no teaching jobs were available.

We muddled through.  We each took a succession of scut jobs, some of which help guide us over the years.  Kitty became part of a pilot program designed to close juvenile detention centers in Massachusetts.  We both discovered this was something we were good at and it eventually led to our becoming foster parents for kids with extreme problems.  I briefly ran a used book store until the owner told me on a Monday that I had to buy the business by that Thursday or would be fired.  I discovered I had a flair for writing and worked (also briefly) for a firm writing undergraduate and graduate papers until the state made that business illegal.  I got a job as a stringer for a local paper and soon found myself its editor, then the executive editor for a group of weekly newspapers.  Kitty got a job at a local community college only to discover that her union (which she had to join) had negotiated a deal where new hires would not get a pay raise for three years.

We had kids.  Two of the very best, as a matter of fact.  To help pay for both girls to go on a student exchange to Japan, Kitty began delivering the Boston Globe at three o'clock every morning.  We bought a three family tenement and sold it a few years later with the full knowledge that we were not cut out to be landlords.  We bought a small lot of land from a shady character who had owned a house one the property, insured it, and torched it, then went in and expanded the foundation so that the lot was sold under a grandfather clause that allowed us to build on the expanded foundation.  (The fire chief told me, "I know that sonuvabitch torched the place, but I just can't prove it.").  Building the house on our own took a lot of nights and weekends and an awful lot of beer.  We kept the house for many years until we sold it to help the girls get through college.

Thus we muddled through.  Some low points and a lot of high points.  Some tragedy and loss and a lot of laughter and happiness.  We raised two fantastic women and are now watching our five grandchildren grow into very special people.  (There's a reason why they are called "grands.")

Today, I look back in awe at the fact that I had met someone like Kitty (actually, I'm convinced there is no one like Kitty) and had the great luck to marry her.  Her smile still captivates me.  I can look into her eyes for hours and remain enchanted.  Her warmth, compassion, humor, intelligence, and integrity continue to make me a better person.

I love her with all my being.  She deserves nothing less.

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