In the 17 years since A.J. and I met, there has been one constant throughout. Singularly unflappable over the course of four presidencies, untold technological change and the spectacular expansion and collapse of the market for artisanal cupcakes.
In 2004, Brood X Cicadas tunneled upwards en masse, emerging just in time to bear witness to our meet-cute. Weeks later — before I knew what the "A" or "J" stood for or that years of being a vegetarian made it a challenge for her to digest my mom’s lamb chops — the cicadas were gone.
Their exoskeletons remained by the billions, but they never got to see our story play out. This is not unlike how I didn’t realize there was a second act to Oklahoma even though I was in the chorus in ninth grade because I always had to leave rehearsal early for soccer practice.
But just like I knew, deep down inside, that the farmer and the cowman could be friends, I can’t help but think that our nascent relationship imprinted on those impressionabl ‘04 larvae and that the 2021 cicadas were as curious about us as they were about just how much faster and more furious the films of the era would be.
The prevailing theory about periodical cicadas is that 17 years elapsing between appearances makes them impervious to predation, if somewhat out of the loop on the status of skinny jeans. Like Darwin meets Rip Van Winkle, not to be confused with Benjamin Darwin Van Winkle, who I just learned was a real person from — and I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist here — Oklahoma.
For humans too, there seems to be something about 17 years that speaks to resilience and renewability. At 17, you can donate blood every eight weeks and your blood can go in multiple other people’s bodies and you won’t run out of blood.
Seventeen is enough trips around the sun to leap from Saturday Night Fever to Pulp Fiction, unimpeded by any number of Look Who’s Talkings. From me buying a Darko Miličić jersey to me not watching the Pistons make the first selection of the 2021 NBA Draft because it’s my wedding anniversary and that would be as childish as an grown man wearing a basketball jersey with another person’s last name on it on his wedding anniversary.
How then to mark our first cicadaversary? The only way to memorialize such a momentous milestone is through the gift of … song. Annotations below.
17 years of love and laughter. To be clear, our actual anniversary is later this month, on a date I know by heart and have many plans for.
16 consecutive months working from home. The record will show that I have offered on multiple occasions to replace the Costco table A.J. commutes to with a proper desk. In the meantime, most of the surface area is covered with coasters.
15 non-consecutive days Up North. I could wax poetic about Up North — when the sun, the same sun that shone 350 million years ago when the petoskey stones were living coral, reflects off Lake Michigan at a 45°angle due east along the 45th parallel and time stands still — but I would rather just re-read Rachel’s story.
14 cup Cuisinart® coffee carafe replacement. The cost of successive glass carafes has long since eclipsed the purchase price of the coffee maker. They are too fragile, irrespective of my caffeination level when rinsing or refilling. Speaking of seventeen years being a lifetime ago, I did not drink coffee when A.J. and I met. Now, I only need it before speaking, operating machinery (any weight class) and gross motor skills. (When Judah started pre-school, I assumed the Gross Motor Room had been underwritten by a generous member of the Gross family.)
13 succulents suffering. The problem with hardy plants is that you end up playing Chicken (nay, Textured Vegetable Protein) with them. God forbid they should wilt from overwatering — better to determine empirically how closely related they are to cacti.
12 Twelve beers a brewing. The words I. am. typing. right ... now are being brought to you by a lager I left lagering for an extra couple weeks (busy couple weeks) and a mercifully short Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. That said, I don’t think I can drink all 5 gallons by myself before it turns into a different kind of alcohol entirely, so I’m hoping some generous souls will bail me out.
11 loads of laundry. Like homebrewing and rock tumbling, laundry has the key attribute I look for in a hobby — you do something and then you leave the room to do something else and the first thing you did keeps going in your absence. Unlike quartz, clothes do not get smoother the longer you forget about them.
10 needles knitting. In contrast to my rotisserie-style hobbies, A.J. has been diligently knitting her way through conference calls these past months, having reallocated the dry cleaning line in our family budget — along with the section of our cedar closet that used to hold my beloved bundt pans and the gazpacho bowls my brother got us for our wedding — for a strategic reserve of yarn.
9 countries traveled. CLASSIFIED/Canada.
8 Dance Recitals. Among the topsy turvy turns of 2020, the drive-in dance recital at the M-1 Concourse is right up there with home haircuts and leaving your groceries outside overnight.
7 Harry Potters. Phoebe read and Judah listened to all the books last year. (I prefer the Jim Dale-narrated audiobooks to the movies.) Months on, we still have hand-drawn owls, Hogwart's letters clutched in their construction-paper talons, hanging from fishing line above our kitchen table. Pro tip: If you’re pinched for time (or the guests at your Quidditch party happen to be under 21), making butter beer in the Instant Pot is quicker than making beer beer in your basement.
6 purim goldfish. When was the last in-person purim carnival? 2019? Who among you has a carnival-procured aquatic acquaintance that has just kept swimming these past two and a half years? Fintastic! Alas, our time with Megan Rapino and Alex Morgan was all too fleeting.
5 "great" grandparents. All really great — equally great — but only one is months away from triple-digits great.
4 kid-free weeks. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to raising kids, so I am candid with them in my letters about how quiet things are around here when they’re gone. It is entirely up to them how to interpret the way that I am experiencing that sweet, sacred silence. Both of them got harmonicas before camp and I’ve been sending tabs for songs — Jet Plane, Imagine, Hey Jude, Stand by Me so far. It’s almost like I can hear them practicing. Except, importantly, I cannot hear them practicing.
3 podcasts. Hard to narrow it down to just three:
- For driving up north: Hit Parade
- For the best advice: The Best Advice Show
- You don't have to take my word for it: LeVar Burton Reads
2 healthy children. The optometrist said Phoebe needed glasses, so she got glasses. Then, the opthamologist said she didn’t. Before Judah gets braces, I'm going to have our our ornithologist take a beak.