Happy wife, happy life: a story of thanks

by Debbie Carini


Every year, when Thanksgiving rolls around my mind—and my column—turn to thoughts of what to be thankful for.

I also think a lot about what I’m going to serve for Thanksgiving dinner, because I want to try that new recipe for wild rice-stuffed acorn squash. I usually cling to the string bean casserole, which was invented in 1955 by a woman named Dorcas Reilly at the Campbell Soup Company (the original recipe card of her green bean casserole recipe is now at the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame alongside Enrico Fermi’s invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor and Thomas Edison’s light bulb and phonograph. There’s probably an orange Jello carrot mold recipe there, too).

One morning last week, I was flipping through my recipe books at the kitchen table while enjoying a cup of coffee when I spied, through the window, a small tree in our yard shaking unnaturally.

Of course, the force of nature was my husband.

He was stringing lights in a new tree. And these weren’t just any lights—they are solar-powered. I chuckled to myself, then figured I had better find something to do before he saw me just sitting there and drummed up a way for me to run on the treadmill to power the dishwasher.

A potent Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world is called, in Hebrew, tikkun olam. In my husband’s effort to embody this ideal, he has embraced the potential of sustainability and the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. We drive a hybrid, we fill our recycling bin each week, we’ve taken out our grass and replaced it with less-water-consuming vegetable gardens and succulent patches, we buy used furniture and we walk almost everywhere we can.

I’m often entertained as he “modernizes” our lives.  If he had been born a generation earlier, I think he would have been an avid fan of the Clapper, the sound-activated on/off switch. As it is now, our rechargeable doorbell takes pictures and can be answered by smartphone anywhere in the world, and our yard has solar-powered, movement-sensitive lighting that provides a safe path to the garbage can at night.

But I am thankful for his efforts. He’s trying to make the world a better place, and that’s an important thing to be grateful for.

In fact, I am thankful for everything he does, big and small. Here’s just a short sampling:

• Going down to the basement when there are scurrying, scratchy noises down there.

• Finding great new restaurants (usually in the diviest of places with a B rating, but delicious nonetheless).

• Driving for miles to see a roadside attraction (or a promising cheese shop—which most recently turned out to be a mini-fridge in the back of a barn—leave your $5 in a cup, and take your Vermont Brie).

• Shopping for junktiques

• Enduring the same questions over and over (thanks to my short-term memory problems).

• Tolerating my death-grip on his arm during airplane take-offs and landings.

And this Thanksgiving, I’ll be thankful for the twinkling lights on our patio—his way of generating some much-needed light and enchantment as we enter this wonderful holiday season. Happy turkey day!


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