It's tough to find time to keep romance fires stoked

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I proposed to my wife on Christmas Day. So, along with the other obligatory family activities that surround the holiday, we try to rekindle the passion. As if there isn't enough stress already.

Sometimes between making travel plans, coaching, cooking, working, shopping, and, oh yes, conducting everyday life, we are compelled by my incredible lack of foresight to also be romantic, or at least the next best thing: patient.

Our schedules have become such that in the thrall of a Christmas spirit fervor my wife spent a half-hour decorating a display tree at a local mega-mart, driving home the point that I have not brought home the bacon in the tree department.

Of course, time management is not our strong suit. I imagine other couples manage time well, a sort of fairy tale I tell myself to keep my hopes up. There just isn't enough time to manage, especially as a lot of it slips away trying to keep up with our 2-year-old son.

While conducting dinner (like all child-blessed people do: via shouts in passing) recently with friends, we wondered about the origin of the idea that the "pitter-patter of little feet" is something pleasant.

The pitter-pattering of little feet is to a parent what the Klaxon horn is to a submarine captain. It usually means a fast-moving, highly destructive object is incoming, often without taking his shoes off.

To deal with this, parents are endowed with new physical powers, like eyes in the back of their head. Parents also experience a change in brain chemistry that allows us to cope with the new reality.

I know this is true, because my wife and I once spent three hours arguing about the song "There's a Hole in the Bucket."

My Wife: "Why can't the Dear Henry guy just fix the stupid hole?"

Me: "Because he is obviously trying to explain to his wife that there is no way to fix the bucket with the current materials at hand."

My Wife: "It's a hole. In a bucket. How hard could it be?"

Me: "Very hard if you have to spend all your time explaining basic woodworking to your wife. What does Dear Liza need with the bucket anyway?"

My Wife: "Don't you dare try to blame Liza. She's not the one who can't plug a hole!"

And so on. It didn't end well. I must note for the record this argument took place after we had heard the song for the hundredth time on a long road trip.

Occasionally people experience these sort of mental changes before they actually have children, which is why the mental health professions are flourishing.

Luckily, the definition of "romance" changes too. These days, romance is falling asleep on the couch after our son is in bed. Falling asleep before our son goes to bed is impossible, but let's not quibble.

Of course, my wife still has visions of sugar plums dancing in her sweet head, so to speak. I don't think women ever really give up on the kind of romance that includes uncomfortable clothing, grand-yet-pointless gestures and heart symbols used as punctuation.

Which is why, every year around Christmas time I have to ... ahhem ... I get to devise some romantic activity, or several, to spice up the holidays. Sleeping through "It's a Wonderful Life" doesn't count, I've discovered.

As an opening salvo this year, I took my wife around to look at Christmas light displays. She loves lights. If she had her way and unrestricted access to my time and labor, our house would be an air-traffic safety hazard.

Among the various displays we saw, ranging from minimalist to Rococo, we stumbled across a home that featured a large sign that read "Tune your radio to 105.9 FM."

Curious, we did.

In the third of his Three Laws, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke stated, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

My wife and I felt like primitive people faced with a Bic lighter for the first time. Over the radio came familiar holiday tunes, and in the yard in front of us lights came alive. Angels and camels and trains and candy canes frolicked in time. At one point a glowing Frosty the Snowman hurled a glowing snowball at some glowing kids.

My wife and I sat enthralled, holding hands.

"Ooh, look," I would say, pointing.

"Over there!" my wife would reply, pointing to someplace else.

It was a genuine moment. A moment of sanity, like stepping out of a hot shower onto a snow-covered deck under a clear, night sky. (Sanity is very different from reality. In reality, after you step outside, the door locks behind you).

If my wife and I had been characters in a movie, the cameras would have pulled in close as we leaned in for a kiss. It was nice, but it couldn't last. Our son was dripping chocolate milk in our laps.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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