Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. I used to write a lot about him in the paper- jokey pieces, mostly – in which I mostly revealed my own petty nature, enviously describing the way he was permitted to sleep late Saturdays by the same small children who wouldn’t leave me alone for three minutes together. Him they treated like a combination lounge chair and entertainment center, watching cartoons in our bed while balancing bits of toast on the shelf of his sleeping flank, leaning against his broad and gently-breathing back.
It was after describing such a scene that a man came up to this husband of mine. “You’re David Marotta,” he said. “I don’t know how you stand it!” He meant being the subject of intimate revelation. He meant being described in the paper.
Well, I had no wish to embarrass the man, so after that I pretty much stopped writing about him. But he has always been there in the background.
He was there the time a strange woman approached and began attacking me for a light piece I once wrote about Christmas cards filled with endless bragging. That lady went after me like a pit-bull. I tried everything I could think of to win back her good opinion.
David saw how rattled I was. “You should just say, ‘Look, it’s my job. It’s what I write; it’s not who I am.’” Ah, but what I write is who I am, which is why it means so much to me that the papers I write for print my address. I have learned so much over the years from my readers’ reactions.
One thing I have learned is how much folks prize certain qualities in their fellow citizens.
This husband of mine owned one suit when we got married, bought for his Junior High School graduation. He was a scholarship kid, and has always identified with those who by virtue of birth or circumstance found themselves excluded from the great American bazaar of getting and spending.
He never boasts. You can hardly get him to tell where he went to school or what his work is. Before his last college reunion, I had a terrible time getting him to fill out the class questionnaire. I finally said “I’ll read the questions and write down your responses.”
It asked for your special achievements.
“Leave it blank,” he said. “Or else put ‘My family’”
It asked if you’d served on the Board of Directors of any companies.
He does. “You do!” I said.
“Leave it blank.”
He doesn’t care if the world thinks him successful. It just doesn’t matter to him.
What does matter to him, what he has saved the best of himself for, are those same untidy children who lean on him still. He plays golf, but mostly with clients. He never plays on the weekend. I asked him yesterday how many suits he has now. “One,” he said. “One that I can wear.” I like that. I can’t say how much I like that.
This year, for the first time, one of our kids is spending all eight weeks at a summer camp. On Visiting Day, we noticed that most of the other campers are New Yorkers, with parents in fancy cars. At one point, we found ourselves at the basketball court where a lone father in Louis Vuitton loafers and a Versace shirt was shooting baskets.
David had on shorts and his Dr. Seuss T-shirt with “Hop on Pop” stenciled on the front. I knew he wanted to shoot with our son, but was holding back, not wishing to interrupt this well-dressed dad.
“Go on out there!” I whispered. “He’s just some cardiologist!”
He laughed. He knew what I meant.
I meant, Some rich guy in fancy clothes? Some rich guy is no match for a man with just one suit.
Now these little stories chapter will embarrass him, I know. But he said it himself: It’s my job. 🙂