Earlier this month, a large box was delivered to our front door. My husband couldn’t have been more excited to see it, and he immediately lugged the thing inside to tear it open. He grinned like the Cheshire Cat when he had unwrapped his brand new Dyson vacuum cleaner. Right away, he set to work hooking the thing up and running it all over the few rugs that adorn our home.
“I’ll save the last room for you!” he said gleefully.
“I’m all good; you go ahead.”
“Seriously?” he asked incredulously.
After he finished the rugs, he vacuumed the sofa cushions. Then the doormat. Then the blinds. He was in ecstasy.
This is a far cry from the man that I first met nearly twenty years ago. At the time, he was finishing up his final year of a Masters of Arts in Vocal Performance. Just a few months after we started dating, I helped him pick out his outfit for his final recital, which centered on a collection of classical songs written and performed in German. Of course in addition to his good looks and amazing charm, I was attracted to his gorgeous talent. He always planned on using his degree to help motivate and educate his students as a public school teacher, and although he toyed briefly with the idea of trying to perform for a living, he now uses his considerable vocal chops to demonstrate to teenagers the mellifluous acrobatics of his most recent choral selection. I am constantly begging him to sing in the car with me, but he sits silently while I wail away, claiming that he has nothing left after teaching all day. On those few occasions when he sits at the piano and signs a ditty for the kids, they listen with rapt attention, knowing they are getting a rare taste of their Poppy’s substantial talents.
I’m reminded almost daily of the many ways in which my husband has humbled himself for my pathological beliefs in the way our family should function, and these reminders are punctuated by scenes like the arrival of the vacuum cleaner that attest to his devotion to domesticity. (For Christmas, I got him a brand new set of fancy pots and pans, a fancy toaster oven, and a case of Guinness. It was a big win for both me and him.)
Obviously in our family, our household roles don’t fall along traditional gender roles. My husband is the homebody between the two of us, and because of that most things that fall into the category of domestic care are his domain: cleaning, yard work, much of the cooking. I know that most of his work around the house and in our family is to keep me happy. I can be a bit of a bear when things aren’t going the way I think they should. Sometimes when I come home late from work, all will be well until I realize my husband has neglected to unpack the kids’ backpacks when they came home two hours earlier. I tend to lose it for a bit, banging things around, stomping here and there, and furrowing my brow, practically ignoring the delicious dinner he’s prepared, our two happy kids singing along to the Frozen soundtrack, and the pile of spelling homework he’s completed with our daughter. I’m working on my little bouts of aggression over rather unimportant aspects of our home life, and he does a lot to maintain the peace.
Friends that we’ve met in the last ten years or so tend to have no idea what talent my husband has hidden away inside of him. They see the obvious aptitudes for maintaining a happy house, keeping his husband and children happy, all while holding down a full-time job, but they don’t see he’s really Patti LuPone in Life Goes On, pushing his family into the spotlight while he sings back up in the wings.