I have moments every day where I’m excited. In love with the way Abigail says orange (or-shan-ge), hamburger (hamma-g-burger), and vanilla (bella). Love the way Lucas waits to hear me tell him I love him, then he SIGHS every time and says, “Aww, Mama, I love you, too. This much!” I love cooking for them, hearing their stories, playing trains with Lucas, being bossed around by Abigail. And the topper is the unexpected joy that comes from correcting Abigail’s behavior.
“Abigail, don’t pick your nose at the table!”
“On the sofa?” she responds, with her finger lodged up her nose.
If there were a video camera, I’d break the fourth wall and flash the camera a look. It’s wonderful that I get to share these joys with Phil, that he gets it and delights in these small moments, too.
Beyond our tater tots, though, I’m pressed to find anything that truly excites the man. I tried coming up with a list, wanting to do things that would make him happy, cook a special something, plan a trip, put together an experience, buy tickets to a show, something. Nada. Weeks ago I asked Phil to try to keep a list for me, "Just jot down anything that makes you giddy."
My list could go on for days. I love the life out of life. Aside from matchy bedroom and living room sets, I adore anything themed or schemed. If I were hosting Majhong, I’d decorate brownies in the shapes of the tiles. A color scheme to a party or to a platter of iced cookies, and I want to dance. I adore harmony. What I love most are the small details: a thin velvet bow, hand soaps that match the balloons, cupcakes and clothes to match. I realize, of course, that you can love the idea of decorating Valentine’s Day cookies, that you can spend a stitch of time choosing a color palette, researching how to drape with frostings, and in the actual participation, it’s too gummy and thick, and your kids just fed a handful of Redhots to the dog. There’s frosting in hair, on the carpet, in a belly button, and quite frankly, they would really rather just watch TV.
But, I have to say, the planning is the fun part. It’s more than half the enjoyment for me. I come alive thinking of possibilities, brainstorming small touches, making lists of all our options. Ooh, I love the idea of planning a camping trip. Tailgating foods. Superbowl dishes. Oscar party menus, complete with swag gag bags. All of it makes me animated. I come alive in the possibilities.
Phil, on the other hand, wants no part of any of it and gets irritated even hearing about the idea, never mind the actual planning. So I turned to him and reminded him of the list I’d asked him to keep. “What do you get excited about?”
He just kinda stared at me.
“You know, like what would make you over-the-moon beside yourself excited?”
Nothing. Not a dish I could cook, a party I could plan, a trip I could surprise on him—nothing.
“But how is that possible? You’re intense and animated about everything, have such strong opinions, can be so aggressive, and yet NOTHING excites you?”
“I’m just not vocal that way.”
“Still, we’ll see an amazing film, and you’ll say, ‘eh’ even when you like it!”
The only times I ever see Phil abuzz with excitement, where he seems truly ready to wet himself, is when he’s discussing a business plan. A second close is when he thinks we might be taking a trip to Lockhart, TX for some barbecue. I wish more things in the world excited him the way they excite me. I wish he raved on and on about a film, about a meal, about a dish he wanted us to recreate, about a project he wanted to undertake. The irony, of course, is that he constantly complains that I’m negative.
"Holy backstabbing balls, it’s damn cold out!" I’ll say.
And he’ll respond, "Can you go a day without complaining about something? I’m outside, and all I think is, ‘Wow, look at that sun, what a beautiful day.’"
This is the part where I roll my eyes, or tell him that the sun might be beautiful, but it also causes cancer, makes me squint, and isn’t doing its job because it’s still gelid as all get out. We’re a mess.
I think I get to the point where I don’t want to go through a lot of trouble to do something when it’s only going to be met with an “eh,” or a “This is great. Thank you. Now can we move on?” No! I want him to be beside himself happy, but I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to get him there. I have to believe that he gets just as excited about certain things, has just as much passion, but just doesn’t wear it the same way I do. But if that’s the case, why then would it be so hard for him to make a list?
Meanwhile, I can only focus on what makes me happy, and making lists of what makes me happy actually makes me happy. I love lists!