Every relationship has its rituals — but as Mr. wOw learns, it’s the small ones that end up mattering the most
Many years ago—back in the fabulous early 1980’s (well, if you didn’t factor in AIDS), B. went off to Denmark. He was a medical researcher and was … researching in Denmark. B. was away a while. He loved Denmark. He loved the work he was doing and the people he was working with. Especially one fellow. Cute and smart. Doctor smart. Just like B., Mr. wOw was nervous.
When B. went off for a second stay in Denmark, he said, “wOw, why don’t come along? Everyone would love to meet you.” This was odd. B. was and is a shy guy, who needs some prodding in the social area. One of the reasons he liked me is that I wasn’t shy, once I relaxed, and would always strike up animated conversations with strangers, and had friends, and brought people over. This eventually ended—it was too much work for me: I cooked I cleaned, they were my friends, I entertained. I got tired. I was working nine to five.
But B. gregarious himself, in another country?! This I had to see. So I braved my very first plane ride to Denmark. I was terrified, but made a hell of a lot of acquaintances during the seven or eight hours in the air. I also drank a lot. Not that it helped. (It was the beginning of many years of air travel, and imbibing way up there.) Denmark was wonderful, and in many ways B. was a different person. Not totally, but that’s another more serious tale (perhaps to be published here when the wOw powers no longer find my serious, intimate tales too shocking for you all. There is one such waiting.) I met B.’s friend and was properly jealous. But, I kind of got over it. I loved Denmark too. And we often went to a park in the middle of Copenhagen and admired the swans. We loved swans, despite their famously irritable nature. They were always polite to us.
I left Denmark. B. followed a few weeks later. He returned – depressed, it seemed to me. Was he longing for Denmark and his doctor pal? Was he regretting me? I was so childish. So poor. Not his equal, I was sure. Finally, I asked him, “Do you want to go back? Do you want to separate. We’ve only been together six years, we’re young. You have time to make another life.” His answer was a curt, final, “no!” (Big girly conversations are not his forte, though he allows me an annual monologue.) He seemed to improve somewhat, but I thought he still missed Denmark. It troubled me. Then one day at the supermarket I found a large plastic swan. I brought it home, filled the bathtub and put him in to float.
When B. came from work I said we’d received a visitor, who was splashing around in our tub. B. hurried upstairs, and I wondered what kind of visitor he was hoping to find in our tub? (That cute kid down the block?) Well, it was the plastic swan, serene. B. was amused, perhaps even touched. I was (am) so rarely sensitive when I should be. He seemed better after that.
We tucked the swan away, and I never thought of it again until Easter rolled around. I woke up Easter Sunday to find our swan jam-packed with sweet goodies of all kinds. I love candy. B. said: “I heard the flapping of wings last night, and he suddenly appeared with all this stuff. It was quite a journey. He can stay awhile, yes?” Of course! Who turns away a swan bearing chocolate?
We must have been hospitable enough. Every year since—more than 25, now—our Easter swan has arrived, loaded down with sweet gifts. He always comes when I am asleep. Sometimes B. expresses concern about the weather, and the swans great age, but he always comes through, not much altered by time, though no great conversationalist. He stays until we’ve pretty much finished off his gifts. He always leaves quietly in the night. Sometimes B. is awake and bears a message—the swan has had a relaxing time, loves us, and will be back next year.
All relationships have rituals. Funny little nicknames and habits. Sometimes they start out annoying but oddly you grow to depend on and even love them. The swan started out as a nervous joke by an insecure Mr. wOw, hoping to charm his B. Today, if anything happened to that damn plastic swan I think I’d have to be strapped down and medicated.
I’d like to go back to Denmark someday with B. Look at the swans again. And maybe bring a present to our swan (he’s definitely a Dane.) After all, he’s given us so much. And I don’t just mean chocolate rabbits.
Happy Easter to you all—whether it is a time of spiritual contemplation or bunny rabbits and colored eggs. Or just a few days off.
I must go. Jelly beans are beckoning.