27 April 2006

Sweet cheeks

Mr. Wren farting his way out of bed, ripping the pristine silence with sounds that made me thankful I was at the other end of the house got me musing over the strange, sweet earthiness of marriage as I drove to work this morning.

What, I wondered, is it that attracts people to each other and compels them to attempt to live their lives out together?

Well, yes, there’s love. And lust, although after the lust part fades a little, both partners may be left somewhat befuddled about what it was, exactly, they considered so darn loveable about their mate.

Let me hasten to say this is not the case with me in regards to Mr. Wren. I love the guy today even more than I did the day I first set eyes on him, though I don’t see him through those heart-shaped, rose-colored glasses anymore.

Well, except now and then in a weak moment. And we all have those, right?

Mr. Wren is a World Class Windmaker, kids, absolutely World Class. If farting were an Olympic sport, he’d be buried under his gold medals. Few on the planet can hold a candle to his skill – and indeed, few would dare. Hold a candle, I mean. Within 20 feet of him.

You can’t help but admire such mastery, nurtured so lovingly and with such single-minded dedication to daily practice from childhood.

I have to admit that when we got married overlooking Zephyr Cove in South Lake Tahoe wayyyy back in the Olden Days, it never, ever occurred to me that within a fairly short time (roughly 12 hours), I’d be able to gauge his mood simply by paying attention to the tonal quality, frequency and ferociousness of his tootling.

Nor did I comprehend the sheer joy -- even glee -- he got from it. That came later.

But I digress. During the 40-minute-drive to work this morning, I mused about how it was that we happened to choose each other, all those years ago.

Now, I should make it clear that Mr. Wren, at 22 years old, was a young god. He was tall, lean, tremendously strong, very nicely muskled and possessed of a face that could make cherubs weep. He caught my own 22-year-old eye right off, the very first day we both showed up in class at a military intelligence training school in the exotic foreign country of Texas. Mr. Wren was red-headed and fair-skinned with eyes as clear as water and a butt so ... nice ... it was darned near perfect. I had no idea it was musical, as well!

He was also soft-spoken, articulate, intelligent, kind, gentle and possessed of a wonderful sense of humor.

We quickkly discovered a few things we had in common (other than an abiding need to get into each others’ drawers). Mr. Wren grew up in Oklahoma. I grew up in California, but my father’s family were Okies who’d come West after World War II. That meant that we could both claim distant (if rather ephemeral) Cherokee ancestors. (I’ve since learned that there isn’t an Oklahoman on Earth who doesn’t claim Cherokee ancestors.)

We also shared a Heinz-57 mix of other ancestors, those of the Northern European immigrant variety. Mr. Wren proudly claimed Dutch, Irish, English and, uniquely, Swahili forebears. Given his russet hair and freckly skin, I believe the Irish may have been dominant. As for the Swahili, who knows?

I also claimed a genetic mixture that included Irish, English, and Welsh -- and Finnish, of which I’m a quarter. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin, but my Scandahoovian forebears seem to have been short and round rather than tall and willowy. Darn.

We discovered a lot of differences, too. Mr. Wren loves gardening. I like to gaze at gardens. He has a fabulously mathematical mind, while basic addition and subtraction leave me sweating. I’m artistic; he wishes he was. He loves hiking and fishing, pastimes during which one can fart freely without offending anyone but the skunks and jays; I love nights out at the theatre, the ballet and the symphony hall – not good places to relieve gastric pressure, especially while trying for a reverberating middle C.

Mr. Wren grew up in a large, rowdy, country family. To hear him tell it, each day began before the crack of dawn with cow-milkin’ and ended with fish-cleanin’, with a healthy dose of hay-bailin’ and stackin’ tossed in between humongous meals that consisted of plenty of whole milk, stew pots full of beans and fresh vegetables. Passing wind was not only unavoidable but encouraged, as they believed it was unhealthy to, well, hold back. One might, after all, explode.

To deflate this potential disaster, Mr. Wren’s family engaged in cheerful, daily concertos of friendly, competitive farting. The winner was the family member who could produce the longest, loudest and most musical trouser-melters in the greatest numbers.

I’m guessing here, but I’m sure his poor mother left the windows open year-round. I know I do.

I, on the other hand, grew up in the suburbs. I learned early on that producing noise from between one’s nether cheeks was unhealthy and frowned upon. Holding back was paramount, although once cloistered behind a bathroom door, where the sound could be muffled and the stink contained, one could cut loose. Discreetly. Cans of air-freshener were always on hand, just in case.

I think it’s the Finnish ancestry, actually. It may well be that it’s instinctual to retain as much hot air as possible in case of an unexpected deep freeze.

None of this has ever made a whit of difference when it comes to loving my sweet, gentle madman, though. He has a way with animals that’s nearly magical. He picks up possums by the tail and cradles them in his arms as they desperately play dead. Chickens think he’s their mother. Our dogs have always spent their days as his shadow and nuthatches have landed on his cap for a visit. Children are mesmerized by him, as if he’s a cross between the Pied Piper and Jack’s giant.

I’ve spent my marriage to Mr. Wren laughing, often until my sides are splitting and I’m gasping for breath while madly fanning the air back in his direction. While I have never been able to join him in free-farting demonstrations – my upbringing and genetic makeup just won’t allow it – he taught our two daughters to let ‘er rip with abandon. And while that prodigious brrrrrrrraaaaaaaaappppp-ph-ph-p at dawn might make my eyes water, I’d be concerned if I didn’t hear it.

Who knows, really, what attracted us to each other and led us to spend our lives together? Maybe it's because I have a terrible sense of smell. Mr. Wren withered my nose-hairs, taught me to belly-laugh and, in the process, won my heart for good.

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