My wife, Hedy, has been caught up in a belated spring-cleaning frenzy for the past few days.
I've learned to stay clear of her when she begins acting this way. Closets and cupboards are opened, contents are sorted through and emptied, and the detritus of 35 years of marriage are placed in piles on the floor, soon to be transferred to large, black trash bags.
It's then that I must assume my role in this conjugal ritual. I transport the bags to trash cans at the side of the house.
I'm not certain, frankly, what triggers this curious behavior, but I recognize its onset and am aware that it presents a serious danger to me. Like the blue-footed booby male bird who assists with nesting in the Galápagos Islands, I offer my simple contribution, then stand back and allow the dominant female to pursue her furious labor. Only she knows what to do and how to do it.
I find it best to hunker down in the den with a book. My motive is to distance myself from the tornado that's been unleashed in my household, and to avoid the very real possibility of being stuffed into a plastic bag myself.
One of the closets that Hedy plundered last weekend yielded a trove of photographs taken during the early years of our marriage, including a number of shots from our 1975 Hawaiian honeymoon on the isles of Oahu, Maui and Kauai. I hadn't seen them in decades.
Though I'm one who's taken innumerable photos during my lifetime, rarely do I revisit them. I'm a sentimentalist, and old family photos can bring on a bout of melancholia, which I seek to avoid. Therefore, I try to resist cracking open an old album or sorting through stacks of faded photos.
I convince myself that I'll examine them at some later date — which, of course, I never do.
Self-discipline deserted me this time, however. I perused the pics.
Oh, my goodness!
The honeymooners were so young! I was 30, she 24. And she was breathtakingly beautiful! The girl I married so long ago to this day takes my breath away.
"How did you ever convince her to marry you?" I wondered aloud, ogling the antediluvian pictures with fascination.
There I was, on a Hawaiian beach in 1975, a less-than-spectacular-looking guy with bushy curly hair, an unkempt beard, painfully thin, wearing shorts and coming out of the water. A vision!
What did she see in him?
There she was: standing in a short Polynesian-print sundress on romantic Lumahai Beach; lolling, with dark hair down to the middle of her back, next to a river in a Maui nature preserve; and reclining gracefully next to a lily pond, in white slacks and a fashionable pink top. Slender. Arresting. Feminine.
Who is this nymphet, and what's going on in her head as she smiles — somewhat self-consciously — before the lens of her new husband's 35mm camera?
Does she exhibit a look that betrays an expectation that, some 35 years hence, she'll be married to the thin young man still — who'll no longer be thin … or young?
As she stands coyly with a fashionable bag draped over a shoulder at the Lahaina waterfront, can she possibly envision a future that honors her with three beautiful daughters and six grandchildren? Had some oracle approached her with that prophecy at the moment the shutter clicked, how would she have reacted? Would she have believed it?
And the young man, as he stands with his feet in the water of a Maui beach, has he the foggiest notion of what life has in store for him?
He hasn't. Trust me.
I can tell you now — hindsight is always 20x20 — that this young couple will be blessed far beyond their wildest expectations.
Oh, and check the photo of them on Waikiki. The picture accidentally captures a small group of seniors gathered nearby, toweling off after a swim. The seniors are as old then as this young couple is today. Thirty-five years have elapsed. Do these gentle souls yet survive?
Time measures all. Love is transcendent.
And Hedy is as beautiful today as she was 35 summers ago.
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.