My Wife's Affair


An excerpt from My Wife's Affair

We try, we husbands and fathers, we really do. I just want to tell you that. We may not find the perfect
triceratops pajamas on sale four months before the birthday; it wouldn't occur to us to set up a magic closet
full of stickers and Silly Putty for them on days when they're sick or scared or we just love them so much.
We don't always remember to ask about swimming lessons or the spelling test, and we've been known to
come home late at night and go straight to bed without looking in on the kids (how this appalled Georgie.)

I admit all of this, but also say that when we walk in the door at the end of the working day we don't ask for
peace and quiet and the day's mail, but instead—so grateful that they're ours—just for those little bodies
coming at us in a rush.

Not that Georgie was any angel of the house. If you passed her on the street, her orange scarf the only bit
of color against a full black ensemble and all that wavy brown hair, you wouldn't necessarily picture her
wrapping the dinosaur pajamas in dinosaur paper. But she did, just the way she knew when to give them
Curious George
and when they would love Charlotte's Web, while all I could feebly remember was that I had
read The Hobbit some time in junior high.

Because she had these passions, you see—that's how she knew what to do. She threw herself into
motherhood the same way she had thrown herself into acting. Or into me. It was the only way she could
possibly love what she loved, and she was spectacular at it—until she tried to balance her passions. Georgie
knew, but would not quite believe, that passions do not survive the weighing of one against the other.

Georgie. I did call her Georgie-girl sometimes, though it wasn't as corny as it might have been if we were
older and the song more than a catchy tune our fathers used to hum.

Even now I can imagine her walking in and my saying, "Hey, there, Georgie-girl," and the boys all over their
mother, and me, I guess, like one of them.

I would do anything for her.
I would do anything for her.

I could begin, I suppose, when Georgie and I met. Manhattan: she was an actor/waiter and I was a writer with a
boring day job near her restaurant. Do I even need to say struggling? Or do I jump six years later, when she
was four months pregnant with Fergus and we decided to get married? Or to nineteen months after that, when
the twins were born and Georgie was left an exhausted mother in a fourth-floor walk-up, a Rapunzel with
three boys under two who couldn't even leave the apartment by herself.

Perhaps the story begins in that house in New Jersey, the one we fled to when it became impossible to stay
in the city any longer. It was a fair trade, Georgie said, one kind of prison for another. She could leave the
house now, but with no sidewalks to walk on, no parks or coffee shops to stroll to, she could go nowhere
without wedging three children into three car seats in the huge Volvo station wagon she was terrified to drive.

For a time Georgie lost herself there, to a life she felt was someone else's. She lost herself for almost four
years to a place that cut her off from her version of the world. And then she found herself again, in England,
and perhaps I should begin there—where the end began, unless you are the type who believes it was there all
along, hovering, waiting to swoop from the start.

England. The tithe barn. I have left a third of my life there, fully half of my heart, and I can tell you honestly
now that I would have abandoned everything to those walls if it weren't for those sons who needed me, the
beautiful boys who went to England with two parents who loved them and returned part of a family forever
in ruins.