There is a picture on my bedside table that was not there yesterday morning. It is a picture of a gloriously beautiful woman, sky and sea behind her, smiling. It is in a frame of gilt and funk and sparkle and it makes me smile nearly as much as the beauty in the photograph. It was a present from Arlene for Chanukah. And it is perfect.
Beside me, as I write this, is another picture, a drawing, actually, by Brian Andreas. We were in a gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. She was looking at Christmas ornaments, hand-blown globes, from Glass Eye Studios in Seattle. Each globe, multicolored, swirling, translucent, reflective, unique, blown with ash from Mount St. Helens. And she was going to buy one. The problem was that I had already gotten it for her, months earlier, in Tacoma at the Museum of Glass.
There they were, something I knew she’d want, right next to something I didn’t think I’d see anywhere but online or in a book. She recognized Andreas and how much I liked his work, how much it made sense to me, and asked me to walk away while she looked through them. I did, and visited with the gallery owner.
“I hate to ask this, but, she is looking at something I already got her as a surprise. So, please don’t let her buy an ornament.”To not sell something is not the best thing to ask a shop-owner. He listened kindly, I explained, he smiled.
That ornament, made with ash from deep within the heart to the Earth, from the heart that is the birth of all hearts, the hearth that is the mother of all hearths, is hanging from her tree. And I am looking at the print now.
They came to sit & dangle their feet off the edge of the world & after awhile they forgot everything but the good & true things they would do someday.
She had picked one of my favorites. Just like that. I picked what she would have gotten, she picked what i would have. We knew.
It has been three years and a few months since I wrote The Wheaton Test. And here is what I’m telling you – I was wrong. Wrong wrong. Not just a little wrong. Utterly wrong. Not fun-sized snack wrong. Elephant wrong. Blue whale wrong. The Earth is flat wrong. The kind of wrong that can leave one wondering if brains actually have any use if, after all, they can be that dreadfully wrong.
Here is what I wrote to Wil.
Good evening and happy Thanksgiving to you! I’m writing because I wanted to say that three and a half years after The Wheaton Test was published it is: 1) One of my most hit posts, 2) my most shared post, 3) is used on dating sites, if seems, as a litmus test and, most important of all 4) terribly and completely wrong and I am engaged (a few months now) to that very same young lady. What I’d have missed out on if I had taken my own advice! So, thank you. The ride would not have been quite as interesting otherwise. Blessing Always.
The reply was short and simple. “:-)”
Three years and then some. I have memories of my granddaughter, Sadie, at a year and a half old, sitting on the hearth (notice how close hearth is to heart?) of Arlene’s fireplace Christmas morning after a sleepover night so my kids could go out and have fun. Videos of her opening presents from her. Pictures of Sadie with Arlene’s kids, G!G! And Jules. Memories of wonderful moments on the beach, shared rainbows, amazing concerts. Memories of helping her eldest set off for college. And Arlene’s smile. Always that smile. And memories of kindnesses – kindness unsurpassed in any person I have ever met. I never thought I’d have new memories, domestic memories, memories with other than my own children, that would be important to me again. And here they are.
So, while she does now know who Wil Wheaton is, I know it also doesn’t really matter. I know, now, that, if we know something, we are often surprised others don’t. The knowledge we carry we feel is common. If we know something about quantum physics, we somehow feel it is not abstract, not uncommon. The same is true for literature, or popular music, or TV shows. Anything. Knowledge. Skill. We can’t imagine others don’t know, can’t do, what we know and do.
So I was wrong. Or, rather, she was right. I draw that distinction because she is, to my recollection, nearly always so. When she tells me something, I may not get it right away (I am slow, I think), but given a bit to sink in, there is that moment of realization that she is correct. Now, even if I don’t get it, even if I immediately disagree, I won’t discount anything she says. Instead, I sit with it, let it sink in, roll around, because I know, given an hour, or a day, it will dawn on me not only that is is correct, but how as well. All I need to do is wait.
And wait with her I’ll gladly do. I will sit with her at the edge of the world and dangle my feet over, over into the nothingness, until all is forgotten but that which is good and that which is true.
All. Even Wil.
August 3rd, 2013
Sitting with a young lady, I was, at a Japanese restaurant. The kind where they cook the food at a table in front of you and you sit with people you don’t know and the chef makes noise banging salt shakers and scrapers and juggling shrimp and squirts saki in great arcs into the mouths of gulping diners. The kind that leaves one waiting an hour. But this time, we waited nearly two and a half. It gave us plenty of time to talk. Or try to. It didn’t go so well.
I tried physics. No good. She tried current movies. No dice. I tried Eastern philosophy. No way. She tried popular music. No go. I mentioned Facebook. AHA! Yes, we both knew Facebook, of course.
“Did you see the video today of a mother asking Wil Wheaton to give her infant daughter a pep talk? It was brilliant.”
Uh oh! “Wil Wheaton? You don’t know who Wil Wheaton is? You know, sort of like Nerd King.”
“Oh, nerd is a label. I don’t like labels.”
“Well, labels make it a bit easier to talk. You know, like saying mayonnaise instead of that stuff made with eggs, and going on to list all the ingredients. Agreed upon meanings. As long as a label isn’t used as a pejorative.”
“What’s a pejorative?”
Uh oh! “Wil Wheaton. You know, Star Trek The Next Generation.”
“I never saw it.”
“But most people know who Wil Wheaton is.”
“I bet most people don’t. Go ahead. Ask.” She looked around us. Plenty of people to ask, for sure.
I did. Ten out of ten asked didn’t know. I shook my head. “Well, most likely, they wouldn’t be my friends. She looked at me. It must have been the sight of my foot so tightly lodged in my mouth that did it.
I texted my friends. They did. They knew. Every one of them. She did the same. They didn’t. Every one of them.
We tried talking some more, once I dragged my foot from my gullet. But anything I wanted to talk about, I had to build background, step by step, first. That would have been fine, except she made it clear she didn’t care about any of it by saying, “I don’t care about that.”
Dinner was interesting. Nice young lady. We sat in her car and didn’t talk.
The next day, walking home from my office, I wrote these rules.
Over hot dogs at Mustard’s Last Stand, we edited them.
Craig put them on a poster.
Someone tweeted them.
Wil Wheaton got a hold of it. He posted it on his blog. “This is wonderful and I’m honoured to be included.”
It was shared and reblogged over a thousand times in less than two hours.
“Using this for all future relationships.” And “This. This and a thousand times this.” And “This is SACRED. Never Mind The Bible.”
“I’m well-beyond my second date, but I’m adopting this anyway. If not for my partner, just to make sure *I’m* following it.”
“I’m not sure if I would say all of these things about myself because I know myself. I know my insecurities. But I would like to be like this and I would like to think I’m at least a little like this. Maybe someday I’ll find someone to work through the little things and we can both appreciate the crazy, stupid, and amazingness of the world together.”
“The Wheaton Test is now one of my favorite things.” “Fabulous.” “This is perfect. Absolutely perfect.”
“These are like all the things I wish I could have conveyed but didn’t know how.” “This is beautiful!” “YES. All of this. All of it.”
Use it in good health.
PS. What else did I write, other than this poster? So glad you asked. Look on my blog (above) under books or look here.
What else did I write, other than this poster? So glad you asked. Look on my blog (above) under books or look here.