by Cathy Allie
I love singer John Prine. Now deceased, he left a legacy of clever songs that he not only performed, but also ones that he wrote for lots of famous people. His words are sometimes profound, sometimes humorous, sometimes angst-filled.
One of my favorite songs is a duet he sang with Iris DeMent called ‘In Spite of Ourselves’. It’s a quirky kind of love song, where the pair acknowledges some pretty funny flaws and how they make things work in spite of them.
Among my favorite lines, and some of the ones actually printable here, are: “(She) swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs,” and “He ain’t too bright, but he gets things done.” A few of the other less printable lines are raw but fair descriptions of two people who love one another in spite of themselves.
Anybody in a lasting relationship knows that love really does work that way. First we love, then exist, barely survive, love a little more, and somehow thrive, essentially in spite of ourselves. And Prine encourages us with additional lyrics when he sings, ”…we’ll end up sitting on a rainbow. Against all odds, honey we’re the big door prize.”
As we near Valentine’s Day, when mushy sentiments abound, and cards and advertisements feature pictures of perfectly airbrushed couples, I am reminded that maybe my husband Dave and I really are the big door prize… at least for each other.
In spite of his tendency to find sports including high school water polo (which is actually a thing) on the television at any hour of the day, he still offers me the remote, if only because he knows I will hand it right back to him.
In spite of my interest in all things 60’s and 70’s, and his love for modern lines in architecture and furniture and clothing, he lets me decorate the house and rarely even makes a suggestion to the contrary.
In spite of the fact that he would dump a clove of garlic the size of a small city into everything from scrambled eggs to chili, and I don’t even love salt and pepper to season with, we manage to make meals work.
In spite of the fact that virtually every beauty product new to the market in a pretty package tempts me to purchase it, and he has used the same toiletry basics for the 25 years I have known him, we easily share a bathroom space.
In spite of the fact that he has a mad love for football, and I am pretty sure I am just now finally understanding how scoring works, we muddle through the fall and cram a lot of living into the other months of the year.
In spite of the fact that I have a creative streak but the inability to finish a project, and he has actually had to build shelves for all my paints and supplies, when I show him a sketch or a new idea, he does a good job feigning interest.
In spite of the fact that where to eat out is typically our greatest discussion (except for when we both NEED crab legs…), we have managed to create a list of places we can share a bite to eat.
In spite of the fact that the volume on his truck stereo and the one on the television are both about a click too high for me, I have not gone deaf. And in spite of the fact that his selective hearing has increased over the last few years, he still listens to most of the important stuff.
In spite of the fact that even though we have spent the majority of our lives as secondary educators, our own 16 year old mystifies us almost daily, and we make up a lot of parenting stuff as we go.
In spite of my need to drape blankets and lap throws over every available surface for easy access whenever I am cold, and his propensity to wear shorts all the time because he is hot, we find a temperature that works for our house.
Prine’s song concludes on a happy note (see what I did there?): “There won’t be nothing but big old hearts dancing in our eyes.” I guess after nearly spiting “our noses right off our faces,” we are still seeing hearts after all these years.
All told, in spite of miscommunications, misadventures, and even occasional misfortune, we remain each other’s big door prize.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you who have found love or are still seeking it—in spite of yourselves.