January 17th is my son-in-law's birthday. He'll be 304. Oh, that's right, you probably didn't know about our son-in-law... OK, ok, ex son-in-law.
Actually, it was Mikaela's second marriage.
Her first relationship lasted only a few months, a steal-your-heart-away, whirlwind romance with a wild fella by the name of Tigger. The nuptials were surprisingly staid, infused with ceremonial pomp, striped of oozing sentimentality. Yet, soon enough, Mikaela would learn that old lovers' lesson the hard way: An affair with just another pretty face can't sustain itself forever. Sure, even if he makes you laugh...
It wasn't long before she sought truer substance (& less fluff). Someone with standing, as opposed to bouncing. A Frank kinda gent who you could build a real
And that's when she met Ben. Eventually, they'd go their separate ways, but, oh my, it was something to behold while it lasted!
The initial attraction was typical: she was drawn to his senior letterman [book] jacket. She fell fast for his rags-to-riches story, in its accessible, easy-to-get-to-know-you, abridged autobiographical style. Here was a guy who wasn't afraid to communicate, plus his doing so in 240 pages allowed her to boast she'd read him like a book in only a week. Thus, they'd formed a hard-binding commitment - for who can resist someone who sets you up to achieve a new personal best?
After that, she began seeing him constantly. And she wanted it to be exclusive, willingly dropping friends or dates if they (playgroup) threatened to interfere. So much so that Chris & I discussed limiting their time together to just 30 minutes a day. Precisely from 4:00 to 4:30, because, after all, PBS' strict curfew also had to be taken into consideration. As far as Mikaela's loyalist devotion was concerned, it was Give me "Liberty's Kids" or give me "But I'll die if I have to miss a single episode!" Of course, we encouraged her to see other shows... as if there was a remote chance that it was within our control.
So, once again, we watched a rerun: Mikaela walked down the aisle (hallway) to the chapel (playroom) to vow eternal love until death do they part (?). As
Regrettably, only later did it occur to me -- I should have hired a professional armonica band!
It's with sincerest compunction that I admit it now, but at first we parents were skeptical. We predicted the numerous potential problems that life would bring this unConventional couple, yet their united Constitutions were resilient in the face of such adversity. For instance, we reasoned, her young man had quite a reputation. Was she aware of his previous activities, like when he was 18 (-th century) and quite the lightning rod about town?
Yes, yes, she countered, he'd told her every electrifying detail (excerpt what the Kids' Classics editors left out to make room for illustrations), &, besides, she wasn't naïve. She'd read the other tail-all accounts penned by his hangers-on, like Amos (that rat), or poor, pithy Richard Saunders (who notoriously suffered from an Almaniackal complex). Moreover, if she gave us a piece of her opinion, we would Do good to Silence our Mrs. reservations! (Ben suggested we could Master them Posthaste if we followed his General example -- he had such a humble way of stamping out mailstroms.)
And, as it turned out, those two crazy kids were right! Theirs was a remarkably productive partnership. Certainly he was inventive and, with time, his Franklin Institute-ion proved that he was an experiment that would last. He was a brilliant mathematician (further confirmation he was a total square, magical as he was in our daughter's eyes) who prompted Mikaela to accelerate the pace in memorizing the multiplication tables, thereby raising her expectations for a happy future -- as well as her math grades -- exponentially. (Finally, evidence he's not a D-ist?*) True, we did discover that he was a player, but his Morals of Chess merely entreatised us to make the next strategic, and simultaneously altruistic, move.
Indeed, he was the ideal checkmate for our girl. Following his example, she acquired a requisite "little book" to chart her progress (nifty graphing practice) & then allotted one week per virtue in her quest to expeditiously attain moral perfection. But, as the weeks wore on, she tired of it, experiencing such easy mastery over them all -- "child's play," I think she called it -- that she felt no need to continue past week 12. (Really, who orders a Baker's dozen of virtues anyway?)
2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or
the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
But their most prolific collaborative effort was the stuff of legends (which they thoroughly investigated & only then reported in their newspapers). His Pennsylvania Gazette was the journalistic inspiration for her Texas Gazette. Further, he served as her opinions' column editor and certainly provided as much valuable input in that capacity as do most advisory committee board members. (What'choo talkin' 'bout, Michael Moore?) So, she began building her publishing empire -- as a community service, you understand -- which soon led to her wanting to scope (scoop?) out the competition. A field trip was arranged to tour a small, local paper where she compared typing wpm speed
with the owner-managing editor, took turns interviewing & being
interviewed by staff reporters, and laid out - as
straightforwardly as she could - headlines on the copyeditor's light
table. (Unfortunately, Ben was unavoidably 'otherwise indisposed' on that particular day, but he went with her, as they say, in spirit.)
Yet then love accomplished the impossible! It was Ben, alive & in person! (And, if I may be permitted to acknowledge, their supportive mother-in-law had a lot to do with it.) Leafing through a Houston Kids' magazine, it was as if an arrow struck. For what was on the agenda February 14th? Hold onto your heart, it was a lovely surprise rendezvous at the Museum of Printing History! I'm still not sure why Ben Franklin made an advertised appearance on that particular day... not that a print museum isn't the first place most people think of for romance. And back then, it seemed, he'd be Imprinted on her forever...
But, alas, rekindling
an old flame, even
with a candlemaker's son,
can be wicked. There came a day -- right after that Valentine's Day, actually -- when she told us that she'd simply outgrown him.
So we no longer celebrate the Printer's birthday in the old (Goudy?) style. Not after she threw Benny over for Robin Hood, anyhow. The attraction of an older man - roughly 400 years that young whippersnapper's elder - and a British accent was too much for her to resist...
*Some recent biographers have purposefully mischaracterized Franklin, both historically and intellectually. His family attended the most liberal Puritan church in Boston, Old South Church, home to many rebellious spirits who later led the American Revolution. As a young man, he advocated Deism & throughout his life stated that "the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man." Although even he took some liberties with his autobiographical image, it's inaccurate to rewrite history to fit a religious agenda (I mean, that ain't Right). Franklin, like the majority of Americans today, held that belief in God, virtue & patriotism are inalienable rights for all Americans, Left for each of us to value & express in a "liberty of conscience." Now that's a founding, Father!