THE THIRSTY UNICORN (or How to Stay Married on the Drought Days)

Hark!   I am back!

I’m really not sure when and why the word HARK fell out of favor.  I think the angels were on to something.   Who wouldn’t love to walk into a room or party or office meeting and announce, “Hark! I have arrived!”

Anyway…Hark The Ravenlunatic is back from summer hiatus!

My husband Saul and I almost bought a house this summer.   We already own a house 72 miles outside of New York City (where I still work) and live right in the middle of the quaint little town full of antique shops.   It’s almost like living in Brooklyn except instead of renting a bottom floor of a brownstone for thousands and thousands of dollars, we actually own all three floors.

This is a first house that either of us have owned.   I honestly never saw myself buying a house.  It felt way too grown up, but a year and a half ago we did it.

Then this summer a friend we walk our dog, Alfie, with told us about a little house on the hill over our town.   On a lark, Saul and I went to see it.   It’s nestled high on a hill with a view of the Delaware River that you can see from the wraparound deck.  It has wood-burning stoves to heat the house and windows everywhere and it sits on an acre of land.   It was perfect.   When Saul and I pulled up in our car I expected a pet unicorn to run out to greet us by eagerly licking our faces

I didn’t know until that very moment that this house was everything we ever wanted.

Well, let me back up.  It was everything I ever wanted.  Saul wasn’t so sure.

Saul liked the house but wasn’t as enamored with it as I was. Saul is often more wary than me when it comes to things.   He sees all the things that could go wrong and I see all the things that are right.   I think he’s too negative and he thinks I’m to naive.  Neither of us like being thought of as either of those things.

I often feel my job is to convince Saul to do things.   Here’s an example:

Early in our relationship we were invited by our friend to a Bette Midler concert.  It was in Madison Square Garden in New York City and getting through security in the crowded venue was a nightmare.  Saul was dreading the evening the entire time we were making our torturous way to our seats, but once Bette started telling jokes and belting songs Saul enjoyed it maybe more than anyone else in the entire venue.  I mean when Saul loves something he LOVES it (ask our cats).   Afterwards, as we walked out he looked at me and said.  “That was better than I thought.”

Saul often utters those words.   I have suggested they should be on his tombstone.



It Was Better Than He Thought

Saul agrees that I push him out of his comfort zone and he usually is happy that I did although he will point out the Fleetwood Mac concert I pushed him to go to when our seat mates were so drunk and high they ruined Landslide by singing louder than Stevie Nicks and then fell on top of Saul while trying to twirl like her.

So, I pushed for the house. I just knew Saul would love living on the hill with the river and the view and the acre of land and the unicorn.

We made an offer and we got it!

The next day I drove to work thinking I was the luckiest guy in the world.

Then Saul called to say he got a call from the “well man.”

That is as ominous as it sounds… A call from the Well Man.


It’s like a warning in a horror movie.

Where were your children when the Well Man came calling?

And the news was as ominous as it sounded.

The property has a well–something that I never even knew existed outside of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  And the Well Man knew about the well at the perfect house and he warned us it wasn’t so perfect.   Basically, the water in this well would trickle out on good days which meant days it had just rained.

It was like an ex-boyfriend of your fiancé showing up at the bridal shower saying, “Good luck with that guy” and then throwing their head back and laughing bitterly.

It seemed clear to Saul we had to pull out.

But I was not ready to give up.

I explained to Saul that we didn’t need that much water. That we could drink soda and wash each other’s hair in the river and collect melted snow in a barrel for bathing.

This started the most difficult two weeks of our marriage.    We could not even broach the subject without arguing.

Saul looks at things logically:  If we bought this house, all the potential issues we would have to deal with just to get running water would  make our bank account as empty as our well.

I approach things intuitively:  When we buy this house, we are stepping into another life that will make us happier and we will figure out how to deal with the issues.

My friend Sara and I another epitaph for our tombstones.  THEY BELIEVED IT WOULD WORK OUT IN THE END

Who is right?    And how do you argue for a feeling you have?

We kept trying to find a common ground and kept arguing.

Finally, I realized no possible solution to the well problem was going to make Saul think this house was a good idea.   I had to let go of the fantasy of moving to this house on the hill.   (Oh, have I mentioned I hate letting go of anything.   I’ve always thought the phrase Let Go and Let God was just a nasty threat.)

Neither of us will know what that house would have brought us.  It could have been miserable or it could have been joyful.  Or most likely we would have moved and gotten used to being in a new house and life would have continued being life—sometimes miserable and sometimes joyful.

Everyone knows marriage isn’t always easy.    There is always that part of the wedding where the officiant or minister says, “marriage isn’t easy” and the all the old married couples nod their head emphatically.

But yes, in my experience, marriage is constantly about trying to beat your opponent at the game before they humiliate you by beating you.  (Or as some call it, compromise.)  My friend Amy told me she has no interest being in a relationship and having to compromise the life she wants to live,  and, believe me,  I get it.

But the moment that made it easier to give up the dream of the house was the moment I realized it would make Saul feel relieved and it would make him feel safe.   Saul loves where we live right now.  He loves our home and truly with all his heart thinks both of us will be happier staying here for at least a while longer.    I thought the new house would make us both happier and he thinks staying where we are will make us both happier.   In the end, we were looking out for the other person and not just ourselves.

I just heard on CBS This Morning that happiness doesn’t come from outside things but from being able to cope with disappointment.  I would add that happiness also comes from thinking of other’s happiness.   We can do that with our friends, relatives, neighbors, pets, and strangers, but marriage gives you a lot of opportunity to exercise that muscle.

Come to think of it, maybe this  could be the epithet on both of our tombstones.


That’s a much more useful well

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Hoffman is a writer in a small river town.  He has all the water he could ever dream of.

Artist’s Rendering of Dream Home




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Keith Hoffman lives with his artist husband, dog and two cats in the small town Lambertville, New Jersey 72 miles outside of New York City. He has completed a memoir entitled The Summer My Sister Grew Sideburns.

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