I am married to a textbook perfectionist. Watching my husband, Lawrence, slowly roll up a pair of socks into a ball with the toes and ankles aligned—as if performing the ancient art of argyle origami—fills me with a mixture of admiration, terror, and total mystification. These are perhaps the same emotions he feels when watching me fill out tax returns with the nub of a blue crayon or pour liquid hand soap into the dishwasher without even using the little compartment in the door.
It’s not just that I’m a slob. It’s that I’m sloppy. Not only does minutia escape me, but I ignore it with a glee that’s downright embarrassing. All that piddling stuff like baking powder will work itself out, I think. Right before the chocolate cake explodes in the oven.
After a decade together, Lawrence and I thought we knew everything about each other and our opposite ways. Then we went camping.
It was in 2009. We had just had a baby, another boy, and I was worried that Henry, our three-year-old, felt betrayed and alone. I thought a camping trip would be a bonding experience for the four of us. Not that I really knew what I was talking about.
I’d grown up in Alaska. My family’s idea of an outdoor excursion was to fly out to the tundra in a single-prop floatplane, hack our way through impenetrable alders to an isolated river, and spend the night on a frigid gravel bar only to wake up at dawn to fish for salmon—provided, of course, that the grizzlies didn’t show up. Lawrence, on the other hand, had gone on many a canoe trip with his cousins in the continental United States, where they drank a never-ending supply of beer and slept in old army tents. He wasn’t sure we should take a toddler and an infant out into the wilderness. But I thought Lawrence’s version of camping sounded like a cakewalk. And I was the one who got up with the baby at every hour of the night, so I got my way. Off to Maine we went, dreaming of pinescented forests and blueberry skies.