Sometimes I think I am married to Charles Ingalls.
My husband is probably secretly disappointed that I do not even slightly resemble the wholesome, pie baking, live-off-the-land domestic goddess, Caroline- a twinkling blue-eyed sweetheart and a Blazing Betty to boot. She could work that sexy peasant dress like an insouciant runway model- Walnut Grove eye candy.
Me? I just can’t get the bonnet right.
But Charles is a total trophy husband.
I married him.
Working the land. Tilling the soil. Harvesting the crops. Hitchin up the horses.
It’s a delusion, of course, that we live in the wilderness and just barely get by. But he is so darn cute when he stares out our kitchen window, inflates his chest, and hikes up his Levi’s. He is so tense and serious. He motions me closer. He says in a low, leathery voice so as not to alarm the little ones:
“Storm’s coming. Looks like a bad one. Stay in here with the youngins. I have to go out and cover our patio furniture before it gets wet. Whatever happens, don’t open the door. It’s just too dangerous.”
Of course I’m grateful for his protective nature, but the production… the drama… the summoning of Kratos and Zeus… the chest thumping and peacock feathers… such a fabulous display of valiance and courage… in our suburban frontier.
He is in a constant state of high alert. Hypervigilant, certain that the Sioux uprising is imminent. He hoards supplies for the winter like a wary ant caring for a family of freeloading grasshoppers. He repairs things before they break. He fattens the calves and hunts our Thanksgiving feast. Although a fortress of strength and virility, he is a man of careful words and malleable emotions. He slays me with a rare but tender tear at the moment he takes his leave of us, departing on a journey that will inevitably ensure our survival.
He saddles up his Kubota and, as he wipes his sweaty brow with the back of his calloused hand, stares out to the horizon and says to me, “I’ll be back in a few days. With God’s good favor, I’ll make it around the swing set and past the pool before the crick swells and the bridge washes out. Stay away from country music while I’m gone. It’s Satan’s tongue.”
With a chivalrous hat tip and a wink, he wrangles the 50 horses contained within the diesel engine and shouts, “Take care of The House”.
The children and I wave goodbye from the garage as he heads out to mow our backyard. My baby buries her face in the folds of my petticoat and the older children bow their heads as the music cues.
And that, my friends, is why Caroline never had a headache.
It matters not that his Stetson resembles a Steelers baseball cap. The way he sincerely refers to our comfortable, modest home as “The House”, as if it were “Tara” or “The Ponderosa”, is just dripping with such a corny but earnest sense of pride and honor that I plummet helplessly into his well-organized delusion. It is pure, unbridled macho cheese.
Bangs my gong.
I scurry into a tizzy of berry-pickin’, tomato canning, and sock darning hysteria. I put on my best knickers and ribbon-tied cameo pendant- the one that rests comfortably on the notch of my manubrium- and sweep up my silky Marcia Brady hair into the delicate bun of a naughty librarian. I holler to the children doing their chores in the barn, “Kids, best wash up before your Pa gets home for supper! And put your bikes away!”
It is something to marvel, the curious collision of our hearts, knowing that there could be no two people more different on this earth. It is the remarkable complement of our interests and preferences; how I can be instantly sure of his predilection because it will always be the polar opposite of mine. And how that simple absurdity makes us laugh, and how protective we are of that laugh, because that is what drew us to each other in the first place. Well, the laughable absurdity and his exquisite glutes.
But how I admire him, emulate him, and learn from him. He is my Charles Ingalls and I am far from his Caroline.
Unless you count that episode where Caroline packs up the Conestoga and heads to Ocean City for the weekend with Charles’s two sisters, Deevinity and Deelite, and she spent the day drinking margaritas with a dozen skanky Jersey boys half her age and a skinny armless boy from Tanzania played the air drums on her thigh with his congenital arm-nubs while the D sisters had a licentious punk thrown out of the bar for calling them cougars… well then we might have a thing or two in common. But other than her surreptitious wild side, the woman is dry as toast.
So for reasons beyond our comprehension, God’s plan is always better than our own. The man I thought I would marry would be have been more of a Chuck than a Charles- wearing flip flops and board shorts, shooting the curl over a reef break, sunburned and salty with sand coating his ankles. But Chuck would probably have been a burnout loser selling stolen avocados from a roadside stand after he abandoned me and our three beachy daughters Sunny, Sandy, and Shelly.
I love you, Charles. Thank you for “The House”. There is no country song sweeter than you.