Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout

Forget “falling” and “head-over-heels.” New love that leads to the madness of marriage might better be described as a somersaulting, limbs-flailing, tandem barreling down a rocky mountain that will end in either Nirvana or Death. Drawing a little blood screams that you are alive, but in any case there’s no stopping. If you could grab a hand- or foot-hold, well of course you would, and quit making such a flapping idiot of yourself.

Doug and I were already in the tumble by about the third date, when the 40-something childless man who was definitely going to be my second husband asked, not for the first time, “So how many children do you have again?”

Four. I have four.

My significant other — an erudite PhD and Renaissance Man who explains the intricacies of cellular biology on a regular basis — held up fingers for himself.

Not long after this, serious introductions were made between my daughters and their stepfather-to-be. The girls ranged in age from between 6 and 13. He began the process of trying to memorize their names, and they began the process of getting to know this newcomer who would have such a tremendous effect on their lives. Doug and I had arranged for all of this to occur during a day-long outing to relatively neutral territory, his family’s beloved vacation house on the Pigeon River near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Tucked deep into a cool, leafy green peace, the house was a fine place for me to do a lot of hyperventilating, stricken as I was with the fear that my children might devour alive the man I loved.

After a few hours, I relaxed a little. Things were going OK. We were all eating lunch on the screened-in porch, mostly hidden by rhododendrons, talking, laughing. Being fairly normal. From our side of the screen, we could see tourists float past on the river in rented inner-tubes, causing near blindness in their new fluorescent swimsuits. Birdsong was interrupted by bursts of screaming and yelping as they hit and tipped around in easy rapids. This was great — my embryonic new family had something to dogpile on together. Stripped of even a trace of self-awareness in their unfamiliar surroundings, tourists beg to be made fun of — by local residents with real family ties to an area, and all young people, ranging in age from, say, 6 to 13.

Young people who say something like this, from oldest to youngest:

Geez. Those tubers are really stupid.
Yeah. Totally annoying.
Woof woof. Who let the dogs out?
Dumbheads   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“I don’t know,” Doug said. “They are also capable of asexual reproduction. That’s pretty cool.”

No really, it made sense. Right there on our lunch plates were dollops of homemade potato salad. And a “tuber,” for the rest of us not so erudite, can also be defined as “a swollen, fleshy, usually underground stem of a plant, such as the potato, bearing buds from which new plant shoots arise.”

Sure, perfect sense. The whole big somersaulting, limbs-flailing, barreling down a rocky mountain madness of it. And six is even better than two. Totally.