Sometimes, I Look the Other Way

Out to dinner last Friday night we dined with the most delightful couple. Both ensconced in successful careers in New York, he declared he was a Missouri boy born and raised and longed for home. When asked if she fought the move she turns her head just slightly to the side and replies, “I loved New York, but I loved him more.” Delightful.

As we shared the minutiae of the week over gourmet burgers, Mr. Blandings extolled the beauty and serenity of his duck club. The bounty of her land and her ponds; the joy that the work that she requires is so satisfying. When our friends asked if I enjoyed it, too, his eyes sparkled as he said, “Four years and she’s never been there. Never put her foot on the property. Has not laid eyes on it.”

Incredulous, they asked why. Why, indeed. Like any woman who is aware that her husband would rather spend his time in the company of another, I am curious of my rival. Curious to know if her beauty is greater than mine. Curious to know if she makes fewer demands. Is her company more charming? More soothing? Somehow more satisfying?

But beyond the curiosity is the fear that any, or all, of these things are true. The girlfriend who came right before me adored the outdoors. She and Mr. Blandings fished together and skied together and camped together. I’m sure she could pitch a tent and bait her own hook and clean her own fish. There was a gap between us, neither would perceive the other as competition, but I was always very much aware of what she had that I did not.

Mr. Blandings has declared from the first that he does not mind that I do not care to go outdoors. We are more the opposites-attract kind of couple than the separated-at-birth kind of couple. Sadly, I fear I have influenced him more than he has influenced me. I believe almost all of his traits to be more attractive than mine. Better. Purer.  Not the least of which is enjoying being outside. I think people who long to be outside are superior to those, like myself, who do not. And yet. And yet, I enjoy my controlled environment. Briefly, in spring and fall, I like to have the windows open, but all of us have a touch of allergies and then there’s the dust and suddenly the sashes come down with a thunk.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed Mr. Blanding has given up outside more than I have given up inside. Like our youngest son, he has a gift of making himself happy wherever he is. If I am inside, then he can make his way inside as well. Or could, until the purchase of his little slice of heaven about an hour and a half from here. I had been to a friend’s farm with him before. Newly married, we had a plan. He would fish; I would sit on the dock and read my book. Perfect, as both endeavors require quiet.

The dock, I noticed immediately, was dirty and a little splintery; care would be needed. Also, being by water it was buggy. I’m not sure you are aware, but spiders like bugs, so spiders, too. Deep breath, doing fine. “That spider is not going to bother you.” “I know, I know. I didn’t say a word.” Hot. A little hot. And, well, now sweaty. Fine, it can’t last forever. It certainly wouldn’t kill me to sweat a little. And then I saw the snake and announced, slightly strained but chipper,  that I was going to wait in the car. “Take your time. I’ll be fine. Really. No rush.” That basically was our last outdoor outing together.

Even indoors in an outdoor environment can be dicey. Seven months pregnant with our first son, we vacationed in Mr. Blanding’s family home in Colorado. And when I say family, I mean family; my boys are the fifth generation to tread its floors. It will celebrate it’s centennial soon. And it showed the first time we went. Once charming and rustic, it was then mostly tired and scary, but my husband could see only the magic of his childhood summers.

Edgy and nervous at the isolation (the noises that I was hearing out my window were not the reassuring city kind of noises, but more like, say, critters) we dropped our bags and headed out to dinner. Upon returning home, weary from travel and my burgeoning belly, we decided to go to bed. The mattresses were brand new in 1945. Soft and sagging, with the added difficulty of my out-of-proportion middle, we slid to the center of the double bed again and again until we resigned ourselves to the spot.

Around two a.m., bladder full, I lay awake not wanting to get up but knowing I would never be able to get back to sleep until I took a quick trip to the bathroom. Scratch. Rustle, rustle. Cripes, what now? “Darling, do you hear that?” “Hmmm? What? No.” Which was reasonable because then there was nothing. Rustle, rustle, scratch. “That, did you hear that?” “Hmmm?” Incensed, I flipped on the light. A mouse the size of my fist dashed behind the basket of pinecones on the hearth of our room.

Clearly, he felt as indignant as I that territorial lines had been crossed. Each time he ventured from behind the basket, I screamed and he ran back. While Mr. Blandings begged me to go to sleep (unlikely as I had still not gone to the bathroom) I cowered in fear. Again, my refrain of “I’m sleeping in the car,” brought action. We moved to another room, towel stuffed firmly under the door, mattress as insufficient as before, touching from shoulder to ankle while I lay awake all night listening for the attack. In hindsight, I admit it might have been a chipmunk. Cuter, but a trauma just the same.

A lot of women perform bait and switch tactics between courting and marriage. I was not among those. I was clear from the beginning that my philosophy is “Inside is best.” How can I visit the duck club and watch the slight relax of his shoulders as he approaches her? How can I witness the poetry of his cast and know that there is no place for me in it? How can I go to meet her knowing that she holds an attraction for him with which even I, his beloved, cannot compete?

So I don’t go. “It’s for the boys.” I declare as they load up to visit my rival. But each day, during the late summer, I begin to take my coffee and my paper to the patio in the cool of the morning. I’m not ready for the duck club yet. I’m easing in. Besides, I hear the bathrooms are atrocious.

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23 thoughts on “Sometimes, I Look the Other Way

  1. This was so clever and witty. I loved every word. You, Mrs. Blandings, are a pro! With words like this who needs pictures?
    Wonderful!

  2. You're James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window! Minus the murder of course.

    And don't forget, when the outdoorsy L.B. Jeffries couldn't leave the apartment, it was the very indoorsy Lisa Fremont who went went out and got the evidence.

    Just tuck your World of Interiors inside a Field & Stream every now and then and live happily ever after.

  3. Well, reading that was worth being late for work. I’m the same way with the outdoors–love it in books and movies, but the bugs and the wind and the sweat are not my cup of tea. My theory is that nature is not just the outdoors, but is anything we do that is in perfect rhythm with the whole. A well designed room that fits with the deep structure of its environment and the people who live there, a painting or a beautiful piece of music–all nature. Your prose certainly fits in that category for me. Thanks for writing–I look forward to your Friday pieces.

  4. It’s wonderful Patricia. Definitely filling the gap left by the demise of other shelter magazines and columns.

    Please do this every month — or week!

  5. David – you sure know your way to a girl’s heart. Comparisons to Grace Kelly always welcome. What I wouldn’t give for that Cross overnight bag.

  6. Excellent! I can totally relate. We had a house on the Chesapeake. When I realized that snakes could swim, it was the last time i went in the water. We always referred to ourselves as Green Acres! Great job!

  7. What a great read. My husband and I have the same pull and tug with golf. It is a game he adores and I don’t. I have tried to learn it (my lack of much paticence makes me a not-so-good golfer)but he still doesn’t like to play with me.

    I still dream that some day I will have the real time to learn and practice and we will LOVE to play together. But I am not hopeful!

    Keep up the great writing!

  8. Bring. It. On. Every Friday! This is terrific, and not just because I know the characters. (You win hands down over the outdoorsy ex-girlfriend, but surely you know that already.)

  9. Mrs. Blandings, I enjoy your blog a great deal, but now, the additions of your Friday pieces may very well have just put it in my MOST FAVORITE OF ALL BLOGS category! Well, actually 2nd favorite, my daughter’s Musings of A Night Owl, is my first love. I have been a fan since my first sighting a few months ago, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” is my absolute favorite movie of all times, and was my Mother’s as well. Secondly, I was born in Kansas City and lived there until I was a teenager. I have never completely gotten over leaving K.C. and that was almost 4 decades ago. As an Interior Designer, my creative mind looks forward to viewing your delightful postings and always admires your findings. And now, I will eagerly await Fridays, for even further nourishment. Thank You!

    I too, like the above poster, am now late for work. And it was indeed worth it!!

  10. Wonderful writing! Yes — another “inside gal” here too — not fishing, nor hunting, nor golfing can pull me out of the house (or clubhouse) to join the boys! And my response to the usual “Do you mind if I go ……” is “Are you STILL HERE?” LOL! After 27 years of marriage — our minds still meet — but usually at the bar in a clubhouse! Cheers!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  11. Mrs. Blandings, you are a gem! I found your blog, and it feels just like home, a very warm, very cozy home. Please continue to write whatever suits your fancy, and your fans will follow.

    My idea of roughing it is a night spent on any mattress that isn’t my Stearns and Foster. Outdoors? Not on your life!

    My father was an avid hunter as were all of my boy cousins. I grew up riding horses, fishing, water skiing, and doing all sorts of tomboy things, but somewhere the indoor genes I inherited from my mother (who was always enveloped in a cloud of French perfume and high heels) kicked into full gear. I happily choose indoor pursuits now. Of course the heat and humidity of Florida make those pursuits even more desirable at this time of year.

    Mr. Blandings married you because you fill the needs in his life that his hunting buddy obviously didn’t. Your sons can have fun at the camp. That’s the way it always was in our family. The men went to hunting camp (took their horses with them, sat around in smelly clothes, and told tall tales), and the women happily stayed away.

    Love your blog!

    Sheila

  12. Dear Mrs. B,

    I agree with Quintessential Magpie. Actually, I think most men are like Mr. B, an inside girl who will let them go play once in a while is about perfect. . I’m the other kind, the one who’s backpacked around the world alone, who can split wood, bait a hook, change a tire. Believe me, its not a set of skills that men want in their women. A friend of mine who’s a two time ironwoman lies about her abilities on dates. However, I would like to point out that there are many places with great fishing and great accomodations where you might be able to have a fun family trip(not on a budget though). Some people might fish, others shop, or read and enjoy the Frette sheets and the view from the spa… Look at the higher end lodges in Canada or Scotland. Moldy beds and mice have a nostalgic appeal if you grew up with them, but should not be a requirement.

  13. As Aetheste’s Lament might say: “Well said Mrs Blandings.) A very nice story, and from my perspective, I think a couple having its own separate activities from time to time is very healthy. And what’s more it’s important to recognise that and appreciate that it’s a blessing. (Perhaps the secret of a long and happy marriage?)

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