Sunday, April 5, 2009

Make It Last: Lesson II

My parents recently celebrated their first 37 years together. They have a wonderful marriage that also happens to be the greatest gift they have given to their children. I think there are a few things we can all learn from them. These are the lessons I have learned by watching Dad and Mom play the roles of Husband and Wife.

I had planned on posting a different lesson first, but I am caving to peer pressure. You want to talk about it, so:

Lesson Number Two: Be an interesting person.

My parents are not dull people. I think the fact that they aren't boring is one of the great factors of their successful marriage. Who would want to spend time (see Lesson Number One) with someone who has no motor running behind their lovely eyes? The Mattoons are constantly finding new things to do and learn and become. In addition to constant reading and keeping up with current events, my parents have undertaken a heck of a lot in their half century.

  • Mom always loved flowers, so she checked out piles of books and videos from the library and studied. After coming up with a plan, she threw herself into the work of creating a wonderful Garden of Eden. She has hosted many weddings and other gatherings in her sanctuary.
  • Dad came home one day with an enormous book. When asked about it, he replied, "I want to learn everything that is currently known about gravity." I don't think he got far into that book.
  • When her third was still a baby, Mom decided it was time to develop her artistic talent. She saw an ad and went to an oil painting class. Her art hangs in the homes of many people who could never afford such beautiful pieces because she never takes payment. Once, she traded homemade bread every Sunday for a year for one of her paintings.
  • Dad made the goal to scale all of the peaks in Washington state that were over 10,000 feet high.
  • Mother has taught religious courses for more than a dozen years.
  • When he was a small boy, Dad was given an electric train set for Christmas. One day he pulled everything out and he began setting the tracks on a large piece of plywood. Intrigued, the children gathered around. Over the next several weeks and months, we experimented with plaster and cardboard and glue until we had covered the wood with a landscape.
  • My mom has an older sister who was severely handicapped. When the sister needed to go into a care facility, the people there treated her like a princess and tenderly cared for her. When my youngest brother was about five, my parents began taking respite and foster children into their home. Almost all were severely mentally disabled.
  • Dad wanted to better understand the inner-workings of the acoustic guitar, so he set out to build a few--he started with a kit then advanced to taking lumber and working it with fine touches. Painstakingly, he cut and glued and, finally, strung the guitars.
  • My dad loves bread pudding. My mother does not love cooking. One day, she decided to make him bread pudding and worked a long time to make this special treat. She carefully followed the recipe and pulled a perfect looking dessert out of the oven. Dad took a hardy bite then promptly spit it out. She had used salt instead of sugar.
  • Another time, Dad called the family into the family room. The room housed a large white board upon which he had a number of words written in the Spanish language. We gave up quickly, but Dad pressed on. He does not speak Spanish well.
  • Mother gets up at 4:30 AM to go to the gym to exercise. She wants to be healthy, but takes Yoga specifically so she can "get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren."
  • Dad joined a city Barbershop choir. After a time, he organized his own prize-winning quartet.

I could go on and on. They have never let dust collect and they have respected each other's interests and passions. They have developed their individuality and personal talents. Then, and this is key, they share these things with each other. They are independent in their interests, but they are not independent of one another. Together, they encourage and support the chosen activities.

TODAY: Think of a hobby or curiosity you have. Squeeze time into your day to develop it. Don't be afraid to fail. Give your spouse time to do the same. Then, when you go on that date or as you lay in bed at night, you will be interesting.

Independence and intelligence is so sexy.


  1. Well, huh. I am so glad we did some things right, since you are writing about it... :)

    So I don't think we are so interestING... I think we are more interestED.

    FAMILIES take each other in so many directions... spouses learn about what their partner is interested in, and parents and siblings become conversant in whatever obsession the son or daughter, brother or sister has.

    Marriage really is high adventure.