At Large in Ballard: The secret sauce of marriage

By Jennifer D. Munro

“We couldn’t find any place to eat,” my dad lamented, “so--”

“--we kept going to the QFC deli,” my mom interrupted him. “We went twice in one day. Those Boar’s Head sandwiches are terrific, and--”

“--then your son clued us in to Ann’s Teriyaki,” my dad interrupted her.

How could my parents not find anything to eat in Ballard, where there are approximately 7,468 new restaurants? Only a handful have lasted in Ballard as long as my marriage.

Where have my parents been living all this time? On a rock?

Yes, they have. They travelled from their home in Hawaii, cashing in miles to fly first class to Ballard so they could drink heavily in-flight to mentally prepare for babysitting the Little Monster, age 10, while the Man I Married and I took a two-night vacation to commemorate 25 years of wedded bliss-ters: a quarter century that began right here in Ballard.

I had pestered MIM with ideas for celebrating a mind-boggling number of years spent tolerating each other. But despite my printing out his passport renewal form two years ago, MIM still has not made the long and arduous trek to Bartell’s for his passport photo. Granted, the silvery bush on his face (a.k.a. beard) and his extravagant head of hair, which hasn’t diminished over the years, might not fit in a small passport photo; his mugshot would require a sandwich board.

I, however, renewed my passport (both my chins fit in the photo), which led me to consider taking separate Silver Anniversary vacations. But, since separate trips would be twice as expensive, we decided to go domestic together and bond, a rare opportunity since the Little Monster entered our lives almost five years ago.

Yes, the Little Monster’s 10, but MIM and I like to cut corners, so we leapfrogged over the fuss and muss of pregnancy (which would have required actual sex), childbirth, lactation, and potty-training. We picked up a first-grader at a Leif Erikson Lodge auction, a fundraiser for the How to Tell the Difference Between Sushi and Lutefisk campaign, which has helped prevent many youngsters from experimenting with recreational fish. I’d raised my paddle to smack the Man I Married when he tried to drink my beer, and the auctioneer cried, “Sold!” That was that, we were parents. I’m sure parenthood has caught some of you just as much by surprise.

Since then, MIM and I have managed only a few overnight getaways by ourselves. So going away for two whole nights while my folks navigated QFC’s underground parking ramp meant pulling out all the stops. We considered getting hitched again in Vegas, but we still weren’t sure we’d made the right decision to tie the knot back in ’88, and repeating our vows would require making up our minds about matrimony once and for all. So we shelved that idea and drove to Camano Island. If we could put up with each other’s driving, we figured, the marriage might last another few decades.

And guess what? Ballard followed us. There we were, stuck trying to figure out what the hell to do with each other, when we ran into our neighbor, who was there with a squad of families from Loyal Heights Elementary.

The same darn thing happened 25 years ago when we moved to Ballard with the ink still wet on our marriage certificate. We were so hip that we paved the way for the hipsters. We saw the first run of “Dances with Wolves” at the old Majestic Bay Theatre, and we still have not recovered from the three hours in those seats. The Man I Married got tattooed by Sarge at the very first Ballard Artwalk, when Anchor Tattoo, still on Ballard Avenue, set out jugs of vodka and orange juice. Back then we could not find a margarita at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night—now the same thing can be said of a parking space.

Being a trendsetter is a heavy burden to bear. We didn’t want to drive up real estate prices on Camano when news of our presence leaked, so we returned to Ballard, where some long-time establishments contributed to our marriage’s longevity. As newlyweds, we arrived here the same year that Robertino’s Caffe opened. It was one of the first espresso cafes and was also the only place that sold Nutella, the Italian hazelnut chocolate spread. Alfonso, the Italian owner of Robertino’s, pulled aside the young Man I Married and instructed him on what Italian men do with Nutella to keep their wives happy; I cannot divulge the secret in a family paper. I won’t tell you whether or not MIM followed the advice, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that Robertino’s is still in business, and so are we.

Guest At Large columnist Jennifer D. Munro blogs about long-term marriage and unconventional motherhood at www.StraightNoChaserMom.com.

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