Every Sunday, I ask you to sign up for my newsletter, but that takes a leap of faith. You can’t be sure of what you’re getting into. This week, I’m going to show you. Here’s the newsletter from a particularly infamous day in October 2018. If you like it, you can sign up for the next one at the link in the comments. A new newsletter goes out tonight. Don’t miss out.
Anyway, here’s the email from that fateful day:
It was the scariest sight I’ve ever seen. I stood there in the doorway, returning home to my wonderful house and my loving family, and from across the room my wife’s furious eyes stared back. When the ancient Greeks told the story of Medusa turning men into stone, this was the look they were talking about. Lola was at a level of anger beyond screaming. Beyond words. Beyond tears. It was a level of pure fury I had never seen in our eleven years of marriage because, if I had seen it before, we would be divorced or I would be dead. Lola was at the point where a look could literally kill, and I knew it the instant I opened the door.
I frantically searched my brain for what I had done wrong. I had been out running errands for Lola, so surely I was in the clear. I took her car to the mechanic, who somehow lost my appointment but worked me in anyway—after an extended wait. But I had texted Lola to let her know about the delay, and her reply hadn’t contained even a hint of death rage. Then I went to pick up lunch, per her request. Now I was returning home with a party box of tacos. What human being could possibly be unhappy to see that come through their front door? I was about to find out.
“What’s wrong?” I cautiously ventured, as though my wife were only mildly irritated and not on the verge of actual murder.
“Somebody got a permanent marker,” she said. And then I noticed where Lola was standing: in front of our brand new, custom-built table. And for a split second, it crossed my mind to run away and never return.
You have to understand something about this table: It’s the only nice thing we own. Lola lovingly designed every facet of it with one of her friends. It took that friend months to build it, and it wasn’t cheap. In fact, after our house and our vehicles, it’s the most expensive thing we own. Every other piece of furniture in our house is disposable by comparison. Some of it is a holdover from college, and the rest was purchased with the idea that we would have destructive kids, so there was no point in buying anything that would last. It’s impossible to set your expectations any lower than we do every day of our lives.
But we broke with that reasoning for our table. We decided that we’re adults now, and we needed one solid, lasting piece of furniture to anchor our family. This was our forever table. Our kids would grow up around it. Our grandkids would eat at it. The table won’t even fit through our door. We carried it in in two pieces and assembled it in the dining room. It will be in this house long after we’re dead and gone. In two weeks, we were going to show off the table to all our friends and family members at our daughter’s birthday party. No one else has actually seen it in person yet. After a year when our house was torn apart for renovations and still hasn’t been put back together, this table was our one and only visible sign of progress at anything. It was our crowning achievement, and it would be in our dining room forever. But the only thing more permanent than our table is permanent marker, and those black and red lines now covered the tabletop.
I’m still not entirely sure how Waffle pulled it off. The permanent markers were tucked away in a drawer that should have been out of her reach. Apparently she stretched her arm over her head while on her tiptoes and groped around blindly until she grabbed the markers. Then she went into the dining room, in full view of our three other children, and drew all over the table in red and black. No one noticed. And so Waffle scribbled and scribbled—in my wife’s spot. I kid you not. Out of nine feet of table, Waffle decided the one and only place that needed to be decorated with permanent marker was the section my wife will sit down at every day for the rest of her life. Toddlers are pure evil.
Lola was upstairs at the time doing one of the million chores that keep our family running but no one ever appreciates. When she came downstairs and saw our two-year-old with the markers in the midst of three other children who did nothing to intervene, time stopped. Seriously, check the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. There’s a five-second pause that can only be explained by my wife’s anger, which at that moment extended from the depths of her soul to the end of eternity. When Lola saw that table, God himself cowered. And he got off easy.
The moments after time restarted were a blur. Everybody was grounded from everything forever. Markers were confiscated. Household cleaners were rushed out like medical supplies at a triage center. Children prayed.
My wife worked with the fury of an ER doctor trying to save a patient. She tried diaper wipes. Nothing. Then bleach wipes. No effect. Then rubbing alcohol. It worked. Sort of. After a few seconds, Lola noticed some of the marker was gone, but so was the finish on the table. Incredibly, the damage to the table had actually gotten worse. And that was the moment I walked in the door.
I cannot tell you how grateful I was that I wasn’t home when Waffle started scribbling. If I had been sitting in my office when she destroyed the table rather than miles away, it would have been my fault, and I would not be alive to tell you this story. Maybe I do believe in miracles.
It was too dangerous to speak, so my kids and I sat at the table, silently eating our party tacos as my wife frantically worked to undo what she had done to undo what our toddler had done. It was the most awkwardly dangerous meal of my life, but I couldn’t waste warm tacos, and besides, I knew better than to offer to help. This was not a task my wife would delegate to a mere mortal, and saying anything would only give her a chance to reconsider her decision to let me live. And to top it off, the chief villain, Waffle, sat there eating happily. Within seconds of getting caught with markers, she forgot she had ever done anything wrong. Toddlers are utterly incapable of remorse.
And then things got worse. My wife needed a little space between herself and the disaster that would make her miserable for the rest of her life, so she left to get groceries. But she immediately came back inside. Her car—which I had just lovingly taken to the mechanic because I’m an awesome husband—was missing a hubcap. Apparently cars come with four. I never checked to make sure they were all on when I brought the car home. In my defense, I didn’t check to make sure the car had four tires, either. I should be able to assume a basic level of competence from people I paid hundreds of dollars to fix the car. Moments earlier, I felt so relieved that I had dodged the blame for the table, but now I was frantically driving through town to see if maybe the hubcap fell off on my way home. But I retraced my path, and it was nowhere to be found. I called the mechanic, but of course they were closed. Lola would have to drive around for the next day and a half with only three hubcaps. You can guess how she took that news.
The day continued with everyone walking on eggshells. Maybe we would have been fine if we all could have avoided each other in separate corners of the house, but we had a Halloween event that night and had to dress up. At least my kids could sense the lingering danger and put their costumes on without a fuss. Just kidding. They fought us every step of the way, which I assure you my wife loved. If you’ve already pushed things past the breaking point, why not push them much, much further? It defies all logic. These were not the actions of children who wanted to survive. This was the kid version of suicide by cop.
Lola and I got the kids in and out of the event, got them home, got them out of their costumes, and got them fed. All we had to do was get them in bed and this horrible day would be over. I took point. I figured under my careful guidance, nothing else could go wrong. If we had one more disaster, none of us would live to tell about it.
Then I heard a rip—and screams. Gilly, who had slept in my six-year-old’s bed for two straight years without incident, decided this night of all nights was the perfect time to tear hole in my daughter’s comforter. I panicked. You have to understand that, for legal purposes, the pig and I are considered one entity by my wife. It’s my fault we have a pig, and thus anything the pig does is my fault, too. So I’m the one who tore a hole in that comforter. Not a good move on my part.
I covered the hole with a pillow and told Mae that whatever she did, she couldn’t tell Mom. There would be hell to pay in the morning, but by then my wife’s anger from the other disasters might have faded enough that some of us would survive the fallout. The pig jumped back in Mae’s bed, and everybody settled down. We were going to make it.
Then Gilly tore another hole in Mae’s blankets. All hell broke loose.
Mae wailed. I yelled. The pig ran in frantic circles, unable to figure out that I wanted her to go downstairs to sleep by herself rather than to jump in someone else’s bed. And that’s when Lola walked up the stairs.
Surprisingly, no one died. Perhaps the fact that I was already freaking out saved us. Parents naturally fall into a good cop, bad cop role, and if one of us is already going off, the other one will usually take the opposite approach. Or perhaps my wife simply had no anger left in her body. After such a long and exhausting day, she was simply done.
Lola and I turned off the lights, went downstairs, and had wine. So much wine. And we watched TV. And laughed. And talked. And everything would be okay. I mean, not really okay. There’s still marker on the table and multiple holes in Mae’s blankets. And the next morning, our kids would be awful again. But my wife and I would make it because we had each other and we had wine. Mostly just the wine. That’s what marriage is all about.
As for the table, all hope might not be lost. We got a hold of the guy who built the table, and he said vegetable oil might restore the finish. So far, it seems to be working, but we’re not sure if it will last. Lola doesn’t want to have to reapply vegetable oil every week for the rest of her life. Now that Lola knows rubbing alcohol can remove both the marker and the finish, she has to decide if she’s brave enough to apply more to remove the remaining marker and then attempt to repair the damage. That question will haunt her at every meal she eats from now on. As for the kids, they’re back to doing what they always do. It turns out that being grounded forever typically lasts about a day. I’d like to say they’ve learned their lesson, but I know that’s not true. I’m sure my two-year-old will find something else to destroy, and my other kids will find some way to not see her do it. That’s parenting for you.
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