My husband wears many hats in our relationship. For instance, he is Cooker of the Steak and Killer of the Bugs. He is Chancellor of All Things Camping and Chairman of the Ball. Minister of Family Vacations is only one of the titles he wears as jauntily as a trilby.
While acting in his capacity of Minister, often with little to no guidance from me other than don’t spend too much…but make it nice! he more often than not pulls a spectacular holiday rabbit out of his hat. Which is exactly how we found ourselves 120 kilometers outside of Reykjavik this summer, on our way to spend three northern nights in the cabin Björk (it had to be Björk really), situated among the lava fields, a remote and picturesque location in the shadow of Mt. Hekla.
(NB: Outside of Reykjavik, essentially everywhere is remote. When it comes to Iceland, remote is the most redundant of adjectives.)
On our way to Björk, we stopped to marvel at natural geysers. We sniffed at the sulfurous air and gazed at wind-swept cliffs that made Heathcliff’s moors look like mole hills. And, in true family fashion, managed to get on the ONE ring road the country boasts going the wrong way. We back tracked, took a few more wrong turns (off the ONE road) until we eventually reached the point on our map with an asterisk and a handwritten note.
**the last 10 km to cabin Björk is on gravel.
Now, gravel to me conjures up driveways with tightly packed scree. Gravel is pebbles. Gravel is small bits of asphalt and perhaps tiny bits rock. But not in Iceland. Oh, no. In Iceland, gravel means small boulders and bits of volcano that have broken off into fist-sized chunks.
Within 500 feet, the first bit of ‘gravel’ hit the under carriage of our rental car with a melodic ping. The noise resulted in a slight shoulder twitch from my husband. Another 500 feet and several more glacial sized rocks kicked up, scraping against the muffler and abrading all the unknown yet important bits and pieces that make up a car. The pings turned to plonks and then to thunks and my husband stood on the brake and let out an audible “FUCK.”
I panicked. Because I panicked, the kids panicked. I had visions of dying out there in the (remote) shadow of Mt. Hekla. I had visions of struggling ten kilometers with suitcases stuffed full of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, dodging meteor-sized ‘gravel’ while the car smoked in the distance. I sat on my hands and practiced deep breathing.
After another grueling 9 kilometers, which ended with a steep incline, a cattle grate and a dip in which we expected to leave behind the front axle, we eventually made it to Björk. Our momentary shouts of “Huzzah!” and celebratory cheer were somewhat dampened by the realization we would need to make the journey at least 6 more times during our stay.
As with most things, it didn’t seem so bad when we rehashed the whole escapade over a glass of wine and soak in the hot tub (other than the gravel roads, have I told you how awesome Iceland is?) Relaxing in the late-night summer sun, I confessed to my spouse exactly why I was so freaked out when he freaked out.
“You are the eye in my hurricane!” I said.
Ok, I didn’t say that exactly, but it’s what I meant. Though I would not count patience among my husband’s virtues, he is always—always—-a calm port in the storm of our family.
And by family, I mean me. And by storm, I mean me.
Because of all the roles I listed above, of all the hats he wears, the most onerous by far is his role as Official Calmer Downer of Irrational Wife.
I completely rely on my husband to be the voice of reason in the maelstrom of emotions that is life as a pre-menopausal, sometimes-prone-to-bouts-of-madness-and-irrational-rage-mother. I have total and complete faith in his ability to extract our family from any situation. Perhaps it is unfair to expect that of him, but that does not make it any less true. It’s also why his anxiety on that gravel road increased my own ten-fold.
I usually have a fair amount of patience of the every day life-with-kids kind. But every now and again, something (usually ridiculous and irrational) causes me to lose my shit. I jump off an end so deep I’m in danger of getting the bends on the way back up. And my husband, bless his size XL cotton socks, is always there haul me up straggling and dripping from the depths. He listens to me vent about the world’s injustices, about the crazy things happening in my home country, about stuff going on with the kids. He listens to me rail about our crappy medical insurance, how much I loathe the approach of the Yuletide season, and my un-founded conspiracy theories as to why our son didn’t make the soccer team.
Being Official Calmer Downer of Irrational Wife isn’t an easy job. But it’s one I am forever thankful he has taken on. It’s only one of the many reasons I love thee.
And by thee, I mean him.
(Another is that he eventually found a smoother alternative to the gravel road of death to and from Björk. Huzzah!)