“What’s that?” I asked my wife.
What sounded like a simple question was neither simple nor a question.
“A gnome,” she told me, knowing full well that I knew what it was.
“What is it doing at the end of our driveway?”
She peered over my shoulder.
“And where did it come from?”
That’s our local big-box discount store. They are holding their annual WINTER IS COMING sale and apparently the mark downs on yard schlock were too much to pass up.
“Well, get it out of there,” I growled.
My reaction startled her.
To be honest it startled me too.
“It’s just a gnome,” she said softly.
A guy has to draw the line somewhere – and I drew the red line of death on this side of that gnome.
Personally, I have nothing against them, though I am not sure what their appeal is. Some people like them and some people hate them, and something about them tends to bring out tribal passions over what is considered good taste.
If I were to say anything good about them it would be that they bring the promise of magic to a world that desperately needs it.
While that may be so, this particular gnome was fashioned out of concrete which made him the natural enemy of my zero-turn lawnmower.
But that is not why I growled.
The gnome touched a sore spot in our relationship; one that I thought was healed long ago.
It was the subject of our first serious conflict.
Soon after she moved in with me, perhaps to make the place a little of her own, my wife hung a cross-stitched quote on my living room wall.
It was a small piece, about three inches by three inches, so it didn’t take up much space or occupy a position of prominence – but it was frilly and homespun and didn’t fit in with the prevailing guy-theme of the room.
So I objected and she cried.
It was one of those times when you know you are dead wrong but are too stubborn to admit it.
The fight had nothing to do with décor and we both knew that. It was about the trajectory of the rest of our lives. As soon as that cross-stitch went up, I feared what would follow and my sense was correct.
Her decorating progressed from room to room until all that remained of the house that once reflected my tastes was a man-cave downstairs where I could go to brood and write.
But in the end, even though everything I feared turned out to be true, I was wrong to fear it.
Over time I became comfortable in the home that she made and we struck a compromise, while the indoors was relegated to her, the outdoors remained ours. She had her gardens and I had my lawn and everything visible from the road was deemed to be neutral territory.
Now, the presence of the yard gnome threatened to upset the delicate balance of what belonged to whom and stir up ancient conflicts.
“I can’t understand why you are so mad.” she said.
“Have you any idea how much grief I am going to get over that gnome at the end of our driveway?” I asked her.
“Why would you get grief?”
How can I explain? As a rural girl, she should know these things. Every guy in this region has gone through exactly what I have gone through – and every one of them is loath to admit it, so any visible sign of domestic compromise is dealt with harshly.
“Okay then, where should I put him?” she asked.
“Behind the tree,” I told her.
It is now where he hides.
But not entirely, she placed him facing the road and from behind the gnarled roots of our old oak tree, he peers out with the corner of one eye on the pickups and combines that roar and rumble by… unaware that they are being watched.