Here is a fundamental Law of Life: People who pack light (like me) always wind up marrying people (like my husband) who don't. Go figure. You'd think these types would do their best to avoid each other, but no. Instead, they feel an inevitable and intense attraction for one another, not unlike a pair of Scotty dog magnets.

Mother Nature! What a kidder!

I remember the first weekend trip my husband and I took together. I barely packed a toothbrush. He, on the other hand, loaded up our car with tennis racquets, golf clubs, baseball gloves and many, many pairs of specialty shoes designed with the "active man" in mind.

Clearly my husband planned to cram a whole heap o' livin' into a 72-hour period while I stayed inside and brushed my teeth.

In order to coexist peacefully, couples like us learn to pretty much leave each other alone. You let him drag along his hiking boots on the outside chance he might encounter a mountain; in return he doesn't make you climb it with him.

This arrangement works GREAT — except, of course, when you have to load a U-Haul truck together because you're moving to New York for a year. That's when this kind of difference becomes as visible as a fault line on a seismologist's map.

It was rough stuff, loading up that truck together the summer we headed for the Big Apple. And when my husband dragged out all our boxes (and boxes and also boxes) of Christmas decorations to take with us, I lost it.

"WE ARE NOT TAKING THAT STUFF WITH US!" I told him (and everybody else living within earshot).

So we fought and I lost. The boxes would head east with us, which made me furious with my husband. The only person with whom I was angrier at that moment was my grandmother, who'd shown up to help out and who had (by then) given me one too many suggestions on how to load Christmas ornaments into a U-Haul.

I have since lived to regret my anger, because I never saw my grandmother alive again. She took ill and died a few days after Thanksgiving. As soon as that call came in the soulless hours before dawn, I prepared to fly home to the funeral while my husband stayed behind in New York with our young sons.

It was a bitter journey.

By the time I arrived in Salt Lake City, I felt wild with loss and remorse. We buried my grandmother the next day in a hilly cemetery overlooking the street where she once lived, and then I returned to New York.

My husband picked me up at JFK. He drove us through the glittering city and over the George Washington Bridge to our stone house buried deep in the woods. When he opened the front door, I was met with an unexpected sight— a fresh, fat tree, filling the front room with its piney perfume.

My husband had selected it, set it up and decorated it for me with ornaments from home, familiar and comforting like the sound of my grandmother's voice, calling from some new distance.


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