Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Fifty years in a blink of an eye.

It's hard to remember life before fifty years ago.

I met Kitty when she was sixteen and I was nineteen.  Before we met, she was just a cute girl taking a walk in the neighborhood, sipping a cup of coffee.  Later, that summer, she got a job as a lifeguard at the local beach and I met her in person.  I don't know what hit me hardest then, her eyes or her smile.  Both have stayed with her, becoming more enchanting every year.

She was smart, funny, lovely, curious, friendly, talented, independent, and empathetic, with a sharp wit and a liking for Marvel comic books and folk music.  I was awkward, gangly, and stumble-tongued.  She was way beyond my class.  Still is.

Five years later we were married.  The marriage took place in a girl's dormitory at what was then Lowell State College, where she had been studying to become a teacher.  The lobby of the dormitory was expansive and had been consecrated by the Catholic church for worship services, which was okay because her family was Catholic (some far more Catholic than others).  Kitty's college experiences were a very important part of her and she wanted to get married there among her many friends.  The priest who married us, Father Joseph Flynn, did not think we would last.  (We met him some ten years later and, of the all the college students he had married, we were the only ones still together, but I'm not going to say "Ha!" to him because he was a very nice man.)  In the middle of the lobby was a large statue of Orpheus, which loudly sprayed water; somebody forgot to turn it off for our wedding but we didn't care.  Some of Kitty's college friends played the wedding music for us.  Family and invited friends sat in comfortable seats surrounding the wedding party (and Orpheus); a bevy of college girls came down in their pajamas and watched from the sidelines.

There was a champagne reception afterwards and the number who attended far outweighed those invited.  Early in the evening the venue ran out of champagne.  Kitty's father told them to get more champagne, dammit, and they did.  One of my uncles got slightly snozzled and uncharacteristically flirted with one of the bridesmaids.  A good time was had by all.

And that was the start, fifty years ago today.

Over the year there have been ups and downs, good times and bad.  We had two daughters who very definitely added to the good in the universe.  We each worked a lot of jobs.  Kitty graduated at a time when there were no teaching jobs, so she began working for Massachusetts Department of Youth Services in a pilot program designed to close down the state's juvenile detention centers.  We became youth advocates, taking kids into our home.  Most of the kids were great, many had a lot of problems and it wasn't that unusual for me to break up a knife fight on our porch.  We both slid into newspaper work -- editing, reporting, doing layout.  We both had a lot of retail sales jobs.  I spent some time in high tech.  Somehow, we often had extra kids in the house, whether friends of the girls who needed some space away and some breathing room from their families, or foreign exchange students, or visiting musical students from other schools.  Eventually we moved into therapeutic foster care, fostering kids who had special needs (medical, emotional, educational, etc.) -- something we both truly enjoyed.

In the meantime both girls had married boys from the Washington, D.C. area, and we moved down there when Jessie was pregnant with her first baby.  Jessie and Michael had two girls and Christina and Walt had a boy and a girl.  Not surprisingly they are the very best grandchildren in the world.  When Michael died of a sudden heart attack, we stopped fostering and Jessie and her girls moved in with us.  Everybody moved to Maryland's Chesapeake Bay for a fresh start -- Jessie with us and Christina and Walt into an octagonal house up on an impossible hill.  After a few years, Jessie felt she should go out on her own and she and the girls moved back to Massachusetts.  Christina and Walt began fostering and ended up with a six-week-old drug-addicted baby who turned out to be the Amazing Jack and was adopted after a lot of folderol.

Somehow we all ended up on the Florida Panhandle, with Jessie and the girls in Pensacola and Christina and Walt and their gang in neighboring Gulf Breeze, where we also settled.

Over the past fifty years we have been very fortunate.  There were a few major health scares that were resolved somewhat painlessly.  There were a few disappointments that -- as most things do -- ended well.  There has never been much money, but our family is far more important.  We survived.  We thrived.  The person most responsible for that is Kitty.  That woman is a miracle of her own making.

So how do we celebrate our fiftieth?  In isolation and self-quarantine.   It would have been nice to share the day with our family but that was not to be.  We have each other.  The sofa's comfortable and we can snuggle on that.  There's some good stuff streaming on television (and a lot of dreck).  Kitty tried out a recipe for fifteen-bean soup and it was delicious.  We're happy and we're doing fine.

We have many more years ahead of us and I am privileged to spend with the woman I love.

Happy anniversary, Kitty.  You mean the world to me.

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