Sometimes, after wrapping up the end of a day doing tech support while refereeing Thing1 and Thing2 as they try to avoid homework and chores by revving up for World War III, I take off. It’s only a short escape, and in the summer, it’s still light, and I’ll drive along the Battenkill River, absorbing the sights and smells of Vermont as the pinkish-gold light of evening makes everything magical. Now it’s winter, and my mini vacations tend to lead me to the local country store for an extended errand.
A few evenings ago I used a forgotten ingredient as my pretext for a quick break. Most evenings the Mom of the Mom-and-Pop store is there, guiding her crew as they make closing preparations. Traffic comes in fits and spurts, and I’ll usually grab my purchase and head to the large round, oil-cloth covered table at the back of the store by the deli to peruse one of the magazines strewn about and to chat with Mom who is also a close friend.
Most mornings this Round Table is surrounded by her Knights. These (mostly) men of the town – retired or on their way to work – convene in shifts for a couple of hours every morning as they solve the world’s problems and discuss the deer population (which is just as heated as the politics). The other night, however, the circle at the back of the store took on a distinctly less knightly aura.
At my bachelorette party umpteen years ago, an aunt told me, “It’s not the big things that’ll kill a marriage, it’s the little things that drive you crazy that will do it.” It was one of those little things that had driven me to the store in search of potatoes that night. It was my second ingredient trip in two hours and the third in two days, and when I sat down I was ready for some commiseration. My friend took a break from her closing chores, and we began trading our anecdotes of marital merriment and madness. We had just started to vent when a mutual friend joined us with her own war stories to share. It wasn’t long before the chatting turned to laughter and the laughter to cackling, and I realized we’d become a coven.
As our laughter rose and my friend’s employees patiently waited out our hysteria till they could ask the boss for guidance, I remembered that gatherings like this might once been subversive enough to spark a witch trial or two. A casual listener might have heard our conversation and thought we were plotting the downfall of men and marriage. The reality is that, in seeking company for our momentary miseries, we each left our gathering actually appreciating our situations – married or not. Our shrieks of laughter had fallen over me like stolen fairy dust, exorcising my exasperation over the little thing that had propelled me out of the house. It was just the bit of magic I needed to get back and finish dinner with a smile.