May and June seem to be THE months for weddings – at least according to my social calendar. I have had weddings on several weekends of May and June. During the weddings, I get sentimental about my own marriage (insert a gag reflex here) and try to remember the many fond memories that I have about my own wedding ceremony and early days of the marriage. One of the young couples that tied the knot recently asked me if I had any words of wisdom for them or stories to relate about my early days of marriage that they might learn from. They know that I always have a story. After conveying my story to the excited young couple, they insisted that I agree to include it in my blog – so here goes.
Perfect Peter and I were married on the long weekend in September (23 years ago). Not really the best time of the year for a young farmer to get married – hindsight is 20/20. At that time, Snyderdale Farms was in its early stages of growth and as such there were only 500 laying hens on the farm and they were housed in the old converted grainery room of the nearly 100-year old barn. (For those readers who don’t know what a grainery room is, it is a small windowless room that was used to store grain or feed. The grainery room measured about 6 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 12 feet long.) In order for the laying hens to survive in the grainery room, a circulating fan was mounted in the exterior wall of the barn. There were two rows of cages, two cages high and that held all 500 birds. There was a ‘door’ in the floor that was used to get rid of the chickens’ manure when the pile got too deep and when the smell was no longer tolerable. One indicator of that was when the ammonia smell was so strong that you cried when gathering the eggs – and the crying wasn’t because you were upset about anything other than the smell. And if that was not indicator enough, one could always use the amount of flies in the room as a determination of when it was time to clean out the manure. When the egg gatherer could no longer see out of the lenses of their glasses due to the number of the flies, it was time to clean out the manure. So simply picture a small, low-ceilinged, cramped, smelly, dusty room with limited ventilation and 500 feathered friends making an abundance of noise while producing eggs in the woven trough in front of them and producing poop that dropped to the floor below them until such time that Perfect Peter could deal with it. One final detail of the description of the chicken room – the door. The door on the grainery room was a simple latch and eye closure. Nothing fancy – functional was all that was needed.
Now the barn/farm scene has been set. Here’s the event. Perfect Peter decided that he wanted to socialize with one of our close friends and neighbours (also farmers) and so suggested that we invite them over for supper one Saturday evening. I agreed, made the arrangements and said “Are you sure that this won’t interfere with the combining?” Perfect Peter discounted my question totally and replied, “I might be a little late.” Confident that Perfect Peter was indeed perfect, I believed him and was quite excited to be hosting our first (of oh so many!) dinner in our farmhouse. I labored over the menu, worried about the centerpiece, ironed all the napkins – yes, I used cloth napkins. What was I thinking? The time had come. Our guests drove in the laneway, I lit the candles, I greeted the guests and said that Peter would be in shortly – dinner wasn’t quite ready so waiting a little while wouldn’t hurt anything. Trying to be the perfect hostess, I rambled on and on and on…..for nearly an hour. The perfect hostess qualifications were quickly leaving me and were being replaced with perfectly pissed off newlywed wife waiting for Perfect Peter – who I was beginning to realize might not be so perfect after all! After waiting an hour, we went ahead and ate supper. It’s hard to cover up those ‘pissed off’ feelings even on a full stomach. Another hour went by and still no signs of Perfect Peter. Having consumed all of the wine (thank God there wasn’t a lot!) by now and recognizing that a storm was brewing, my intelligent guests decided that they didn’t want to be anywhere near Snyderdale Farms when Perfect Peter finally showed up. So they bid me good night and the female of the couple whispered good luck in my ear, thanked her lucky stars that she hadn’t married Perfect Peter, and departed.
After nearly four hours had passed since my guests (and they were only MY guests since I was the only one here to entertain them!) had arrived, I see the lights from the combine in the barnyard. Needless to say, I was steaming! I would guess that a steaming mad, redneck American, newlywed wife who ironed cloth napkins for nothing is not a very pretty sight. I thought to myself, “Perfect Peter better get on his suit of armor before coming in the house – because he’s going to need it”. The back door opened and Perfect Peter entered and he was sheepishly smiling – but not for long. Perfect Peter may not have been able to be on time but he knew that he was in a hole so deep that there may have not been enough rope anywhere to get himself out. Apologies were spewing out of Perfect Peter’s mouth – faster than an erupting volcano. And talk about eruption – every ounce of energy that I had (and remember four hours’ worth of practice gives plenty of time for creativity – both in language and content!) came out of me with volume, force, tears and promises of action ending with a new location of Perfect Peter’s bed.
Needless to say – I didn’t sleep so well that night (and quite frankly I don’t care whether Perfect Peter slept at all) and later the next day, I was able to discuss the previous evening’s events at a lower volume level and with more reason. Ultimately I accepted Not-So-Perfect Peter’s apology and his promise to improve his behavior and actions (something that I’m still waiting for) and proceeded to help with the chores.
Now here’s Perfect Peter going all out, trying to be nice and affectionate and me, not much warmer than a cucumber at this point. In my mind I thought that Perfect Peter had to work a little harder if he wanted me to respond positively to his actions. We walked to the barn after he opened the back door and he gently took my hand in his. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I thought to myself that he’s really making an effort here. As we walked, he chatted about his plans for the week and asked me the same. He told me how important I was to him and how much I meant to him. I thought, “maybe Perfect Peter really isn’t an inconsiderate pig after all.” Perfect Peter was really trying to be sweet. We both went into the chicken room and began to gather the days’ worth of eggs. Peter suggested that he’d go feed the cattle, I could finish the egg-gathering and upon completion, we could go out for dinner. “Awwww – he really is trying to make up for last night”, I thought. I agreed to his suggestion. Peter left the chicken room and I finished the task at hand. Once completed, I headed to the door of the chicken room for my exit. I pulled on the door and couldn’t get the door to open – not even to budge a little. I was locked in the chicken room! The process of yelling and pounding on the door began but to no avail. With the fan running and the tractor and feeder for the cattle both running, my yells and pounds were simply drowned out of Perfect Peter’s hearing. After nearly thirty minutes of yelling and after the cattle were fed, Perfect Peter heard me and realized that out of habit, he simply left the chicken room, latched the hook on the door and went to feed. I’m sure that he thought about leaving me in the chicken room for a little while – to give me some time to cool down – like that was going to happen. That thought quickly left him when he remembered the current location of his bed in the house already. Suddenly, I heard the latch open. Speechless but coughing from the flies that I had swallowed, I left the chicken room, walked by Perfect Peter without so much as a glance and proceeded to walk to house as I shook the millions of flies that were now nesting, out of my hair. Slowly I walked to the house as I heard Peter desperately calling, “I’m sorry – I’m SOOOOOOO sorry!” As I walked, I began to smile as I knew that Perfect Peter couldn’t see my face. Why was I smiling? This was when I realized that he was perfect – perfect for me. And I never let him forget it.