I should preface this tale of woe by explaining that Libby’s dad the Rev. Jimmie Love Willis, spoiled his girls, especially when it came to their sweet tooth cravings. If any of Brother Willis’s girls (Libby, her four sisters or their mom) wanted something from the store such as ice cream, or if they needed some sugar or cocoa to make a desert, their dad was quick to respond to the need, grabbing his car keys and jacket as he headed out the door; complaining only after the second or third trip back to store. Full truth disclosure here, Rev. Jimmie Willis’ behavior may not have been completely altruistic since he was known to indulge in an occasional sweet from time to time.
At the complete other end of the spectrum from the Willis family was my family. Our family lived further out in the country, and although we had Pace’s Grocery (the original convenience store) a trip to “town” was a big deal that my mom planned out and scheduled once every other week, on Saturday morning, while the bed sheets were drying on the clothesline. My mom was the queen of making do with what she had when she was cooking, and because of that we had some unusual tasting dishes at times, but we rarely made sudden trips to the store, especially to stores who didn’t give Green Stamps. In the evenings after my dad arrived home from work, just after supper, he took off his boots which signaled the end of his day, after which he rarely left the house unless one of us boys was hurt badly enough to require stitches and then only if they couldn’t get find enough butterfly bandages to pull it together.
With that brief background into Libby’s and my families it should be easy to understand how foreign the actions of Rev. Willis appeared to me and yet how normal they appeared to Libby. These differences helped cause one of the biggest fights that we had about, of all things, ice cream; and as usual when two stubborn people disagree on something, the source of the problem was soon forgotten as the conflict got bigger and bigger.
Just a few weeks following the return from our scuba diving, beach combing, month long honeymoon, Libby and I were sitting in our living room one evening when she said to me, “I just checked the freezer and we are out of ice cream”, I said, “Yea, I noticed that as well…” Libby looked at me and said, “Will you run to the store and pick some up?” I told Libby, “Sure, no problem, we’ll pick some up the next time we go to the store.” Libby seemed to be getting more and more upset with me and said, “I don’t want to wait until the next time we go to the store, I want some ice cream now.” Then she made some comments about it being my job, and about how her daddy would get it for her. Words like spoiled and pig headed were batted back and forth between us as the argument grew. Libby thought that getting ice cream would be a way to show how much I loved her and I decided that Libby was being selfish and completely irrational. We were both stubborn and both wrong.
The intensity of the argument grew relative to its volume and we both said things for which we were ashamed, but the thing that neither of us realized at the time was that the first 21 years of our lives had far more influence over our current actions than the last two months of marriage and the marriage ceremony did not magically change that.
We eventually settled our argument or at least called a truce and because of that argument and few more after that, we learned a valuable lesson about the need to set some boundaries that had to be maintained regardless of the intensity of the argument, in addition we eventually decided on some “rules of engagement” for all future arguments:
- No telling other friends or family about our disagreements in an attempt to get them on our side
- No leaving the house (we would, however, go to separate rooms to cool off)
- No threats of “going home to mom”
- And finally the big one, no threats of divorce
Although it may sound foolish to some, we could now argue with a measure of security because we had boundaries and with that framework in place, along with time and some much needed maturity for both of us, our arguments became less and less frequent and much less intense than the legendary Ice Cream Fight.