Martha and Riley
Photo: Courtesy of David Schickler
Martha and Riley

The Day She Stood Out Against the Sky

My wife Martha and I honeymooned on Kauai. We snorkeled one day at Tunnels Beach and had an isolated cove to ourselves: Adam and Eve in flippers. The coral were purple grandeur, but sharp, and after some almost sliced my stomach, I headed for the beach. Martha kept snorkeling another hour. I'm a worrier, so I stood by our blanket, watching for her. At one point, she stayed under for too long and I panicked and ran to the water, about to dive in and search for her. But then she surged up, way out there, and whooped and waved, and across that blue distance, with sky and surf dwarfing her, I could still see her face telling me, "It's all right, Anxious Man. I'm with you."

The Day Our Son Wore Crap Gloves

Our baby had awful colic. He would only stop crying if I did a jig with him in my arms while we played Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child" at blasting volume. At a year old, he started producing toxic waste. One day, I was away from home and Martha texted me a picture of our little fellow standing in our living room, wearing only his diaper, which was overflowing. There was extra overflow on the rug, more on the walls and even more covering his arms, from his hands up to his elbows. Martha accompanied the picture with just two words: Crap Gloves. I could feel through the phone all the work my wife had to do to clean up. I could feel her exhaustion and her fear that she'd never get back to her photography career. But in the middle of all that, she wanted me to laugh.

The Day She Heard the Voice

Martha and I met at a reading; only because Martha nervously introduced herself. Her face was shock-red with shyness. To calm her blushing, she fanned her face so hard with a program that she got a paper cut on her temple, which I was so forward as to dab with a cocktail napkin. By a year into dating her, I'd learned the depths of her shyness (when her doorbell rang, she'd often hide). When we got engaged, she explained about the night we met. She wasn't very religious, but she'd been sitting in the audience and I'd come out on stage and she'd heard a Voice—some Voice from outside herself, something absolute—that said, "This is the man you'll spend the rest of your life with." It is only because she heard this Voice that she took what was for her the monumental effort of saying hello to me. It is my favorite brave thing she's ever done.

Next: When she hailed me out of my fear


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