To hear us, you’d have thought the Breadwinner and I were having one of those blessed Thanksgiving arguments. Actually, though, my husband and I were merely discussing Romaine lettuce. Loudly. Which was right before we were discussing toast. Also loudly.
Let me just put it out there: the Breadwinner – for all his marvelousness – can be something of a bellyacher, a crosspatch, a grumbler. Not only is it his God-given right to be like this, but it’s his responsibility since it’s only through said negativity that he manages to offset my ludicrous, almost spiritual positivity.
Because I – among all of my many other dubious qualities – am an unrelenting Pollyanna. I’m an idealist. A hope-er. It’s my life mission to keep my husband from pulling the planet to its wobbly knees with the pure strength of his morosity.
If I lean hard enough toward positivity, I’ll be able to neutralize the negative effects of the Breadwinner’s thinking, which yawns from Ebola to glacial melt, from moral decline to ethnic cleansing, from Romaine to stale bread.
On Thanksgiving morn, the Breadwinner was worried about the lettuce that I had stored in the produce drawer of our fridge. He was convinced that I would contract the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 as it’s so artfully described by the CDC.
Not only that, but I was certain to be one of the 5 percent who end up with painful and irreversible kidney failure.
I, on the other hand, knew that this would not happen to me. Of the more than 323 million individuals who live in the U.S., only 32 cases of lettuce-borne-illness have been reported.
Of that paltry number, a mere 13 have been hospitalized, and even fewer are suffering hemolytic uremic syndrome otherwise known as kidney failure.
I figured my chances of dying by dinosaur bite are greater. I figured I’m more likely to choke on a rainbow. My husband on the other hand had already staked out the spot where he’d bury my ravaged body with an I-love-you-but-i-told-you-so sigh.
To all of his pessimistic going’son, I responded simply by saying, “Please don’t throw out my lettuce.”
He answered, “Suit yourself but I’ve got better things to do than wither away on dialysis.” He was as firm in his apocalyptic conviction as I was steadfast in my optimistic certainty, which is to say that our impasse was as mutually equitable as it was gratifyingly frustrating.
The Thanksgiving Day discussion about toast occurred but seconds later when the Breadwinner began grumbling about – or as he puts it, “commenting on” - the loaf of bread with which he was making his breakfast.
“This bread is so stale I’m afraid to eat it,” he said, his tone implying that one bite would drop him to the ground, eyes swiveled backward, foam and spittle clustering at lips’ corners. He could practically hear the scratch of the coroner’s quill filling in Cause of Death as “Old Bread.”
Bound as I am by sacred duty to negate his negativity, I laughed merrily, lightly.
“What do you think French toast is made from? Stale bread. What do you think bread pudding is made from? Stale bread. What do you think today’s stuffing is made from? Stale bread. Humans have been eating old bread for millennia. If it’s not moldy, toast it and eat it without a worry in the world.”
Of course, you already know how effective this was, how receptive my Negative Neddy was to his wife’s insouciance. That is, he was not receptive. Not in the slightest. Nada. At all.
Quite the contrary, the Breadwinner found himself forced to lean yet harder against my positivity. Because it’s his sacred duty.
Sacred or not, it’s not like we were chanting hymns or whispering prayers at one another. In fact we were being a great deal louder than that – we were yelling. We were yelling at one another because it was early on Thanksgiving Day and the Breadwinner hadn’t yet put in his hearing aids.
I may have even screeched a time or two. You’d have thought for sure that we were on the brink of irreparable marital dissolution, hollering at one another as we were, even if our discussion was centered around the trivialities of Romaine and toast.
Soon, however, hearing aids notwithstanding, volume lowered as we reached a blessed agreement. I conceded that he might be right. He conceded that I might be right.
Each of us achieved a new and acute respect for the other’s fundamental responsibilities: I am ordained to neutralize his negativity. His priestly calling is that of canceling out my positivity.
Thus did our cosmically opposing forces clash noisily on a Thanksgiving morning.
In the end, though – before the consumption of stuffing (made from old bread, with no Romaine salad being served) – sublime balance was restored.