In September, Mike and I will mark the anniversary of our move from New York to Pennsylvania. It was about twenty-five years ago that, as newlyweds, we came house-hunting in the Lehigh Valley. We were lucky to find, not one, but two dream houses in a matter of hours.
Unfortunately, one spouse’s dream house was the other spouse’s nightmare.
The house I wanted was an 18th century stone farmhouse with hand-hewn beams and vintage folk art on the walls of its cellar. The house Mike wanted was a 1962 brick ranch with Formica kitchen counters embellished with aqua boomerangs.
Now, it’s true that the farmhouse was something of a fixer-upper. And there was a hole in the second floor that afforded a bird’s eye view of the kitchen. But the hole was small – more like a chink, really – and anyway, the place was so indisputably charming that I supposed Mike would go about making repairs with a song in his heart and a smile on his lips.
And maybe he would have, if our super-conscientious realtor hadn’t insisted upon showing us a third home that was “perfect for a couple just starting out.”
The realtor had walked us only as far as the kitchen before Mike turned to me and beamed.
“This is it, hon,” he said.
‘This is it?’ I thought, alarmed at the prospect of a lifetime spent in close proximity with aqua boomerangs. I was disappointed, I was annoyed, and frankly, I was baffled.
What, I wondered, had gotten into Mike? Was it nostalgia for his circa 1960 childhood home? Was it youthful impetuosity? Was it premature dementia?
On the drive back home to our Bronx apartment, I asked Mike how he could be so sure about his choice.
He shrugged the shoulders that were prepped to carry a major mortgage. “I don’t know hon. Gut feeling, I guess.”
Now, gut feeling is something in which I’m totally lacking, and rightly so. Instead, I’ve got feminine intuition, the wonderful little sixth sense that’s unique to women. Feminine intuition is what notifies us of Mother’s surprise visit in time to flip the sofa cushions, mop the kids’ faces, and display the fiber optic swan that Mother gave us last Christmas. It nags us to check on Junior even when there’s no reason to suspect that he’s out of his crib and stuffing cotton swabs into the floor register. It steers us away from the express checkout scanner that’s about to go Matrix and flash random digits for a quarter hour. Intuition lets us know if it’s strep or sniffles, when not to tell Daddy about the leach in the septic system, and whether we can expect to see a faint blue line appear in the little test window before the month is out.
Gut feeling is the masculine counterpart to feminine intuition. It’s the compelling force that enables men to make life-altering decisions between the kick-off and the first down. In that 60 second time span, gut feeling can tell them, positively and without hesitation, whether they should run for mayor, approve of Daughter’s boyfriend, invest the whole wad in stocks, try for another baby, or tell off the boss and go cross-country biking on a Yamaha. Gut feeling is feminine intuition with a testosterone kick.
It was Mike’s gut feeling that selected our home. Since then, gut feeling has claimed responsibility for lots of other stuff besides, like the chain-link fence that, before we had any children, was installed “to keep the kids inside the yard.” Gut feeling also prompted Mike to buy me a beautiful roll-top desk “to do my writing on” in the days when my dream of being a writer was on a par with my dream of exploring galaxies with Han Solo.
Our family car is the result of a major Gut Feeling. At the time of its purchase, we were expecting our seventh child, and were looking to buy a 9-seat vehicle. Mike went out car shopping one evening and returned a couple of hours later behind the wheel of a huge red 15-passenger van.
“Don’t tell me, it was owned by a little old lady, right?” I asked Mike. “The one that lived in a shoe, I bet,” I added, surveying the van’s cavernous interior.
“Not exactly,” he replied. “But as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the car for us.”
The Car That Could Swallow Bethlehem has proven to be a blessing for our family. Not only is it able to transport all eleven of us at once, but in addition, it can carry three friends, one laptop, two totes full of library books, and eight sacks of groceries, with plenty of crevice room left over for dropped toll coins, banana peels, stray sweat socks, and fuzzy green hunks of…whatever.
I have to admit that, when Mike has “followed his gut” in matters of importance, the outcome has usually been a good one. Even the 1962 ranch house turned out to be the right choice and, with the addition of a second floor and a happy patina of clutter throughout, it has served us well for almost twenty-five years.
However, one nagging question remains: Can anybody out there replace some kitchen countertops?