Wild City: Opposites attract

Once, at a formal party, I was seated next to a prosperous-looking couple. The woman leaned over and said, “Hi. I’m Jane, this is Bill, we’ve been married 30 years and we don’t have one blasted thing in common.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I was shocked at her honesty and felt sorry for the two of them. But now I’ve been married myself for 10 years. If someone said this to me today I would just laugh.

My husband and I are different kinds of people. I wouldn’t say we don’t have anything in common. I would not use those words. We hold so much in common: our daughter, our house, our free time, our religion and our joint well-being. We both like to read, watch baseball, go for walks.

But in so many ways we are opposites. I am the second child in a family with seven children. I grew up a working class Catholic. My parents had both dropped out of high school. My husband is an only child who grew up Protestant. His parents had advanced degrees. His father was an English professor, his mother a librarian.

On the Myers Briggs scale, he is a thinker, while I am a feeler. He is a planner, and as such, he needs to know what will happen next, while I need meadows of time opening out before me.

But perhaps our most pronounced difference is that he is city and I am country. My husband grew up on the East Coast. He is never happier than when visiting New York. I have to run down the sidewalk behind him, trying to keep up, as he eagerly attempts to take in every cultural experience time and leg strength will allow. On one of our trips there we went to four art museums and three concerts in two days.

I grew up rural, just outside Cloquet, a small town in northern Minnesota. I spent much of my time outdoors when I was a child and would pick visiting a state or national park over visiting a city any day.

But I have come to appreciate cities, music and art by accompanying my husband. He has been patient with my ignorance. Because he grew up without siblings to bump up against, he usually doesn’t tease me about what I don’t know. But I, who was one of seven fractious, competitive children, am not so kind.

For example, I remind him of the following experience: Early in our courtship we went on a camping trip. He is not a natural camper. To put it bluntly, he hates camping. But he does it for me.

On this first trip, as we were checking in at a state park, the ranger warned us that someone out hiking had seen a mountain lion. In northern Minnesota such a thing is possible.

We pitched our tent, cooked dinner and had a restful night’s sleep. When I awoke, though, my husband was sitting up, and he looked nervous.

“I wish you’d been awake a few minutes ago,” he said.
“I heard it.”

“Heard what?” I asked.

“The puma,” he said.

We talked for a while, and then he said, “Listen! There it is! There it is again!”

I listened. What
I heard was, “Moo.”

“Honey… Sweetie… that is a cow,” I said.

One other difference between us is our humor. He likes word play, though once he did try a prank. He and our young daughter went out and bought a large, warty, rubber toad, returned home and hid the toad under an overturned pot drying on the counter.

The two of them sat at the kitchen table waiting for my reaction. When I picked up the pot I was so startled I screamed.

“Ha ha,” I said to my husband, “You are going to get yours.”

A few weeks passed. To tease him, I like to say some absurd thing that will catch him up short. He and I went out on a walk. Heavy weather had kept an unusual number of migrating warblers around, and that evening they were feeding along Minnehaha Creek.

The small, showy birds flitting back and forth across the water included yellow-rumped warblers, blackburnian warblers and American redstarts. I told my husband that they were returning from as far away as Central and South America.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “They are so colorful. Look, they are yellow, orange, blue-grey. Amazing. Tropical birds, right here by our creek. But they are tiny. How could they have flown all those miles to get here?”

I deadpanned, “They weren’t that small when they started.”

My husband’s head snapped forward, and he looked again at the birds cavorting along the creek. Then we both laughed.