(To set up this one, I need you to know that my wife’s mother’s maiden name is Callander, not Callender. Got it? Callander. [Double preface: Recently I watched the new documentary about the monumental failure of the Dana Carvey Show, and Stephen Colbert said, “Why let people figure out the joke? Tell them the joke right away.”])
Days before my wedding, I stood in the supermarket’s frozen foods aisle and looked at what I hoped I was marrying into: a dynasty of readymade self-steaming entrees, casseroles, and souffles, thawed over four microwave minutes.
The Marie Callender fortune, an empire of ice and sodium.
I should have seen the folly in this thought, as earlier in our relationship, Emily warned me that her father—who to me was still Mr. McIntosh—was not a primary architect in the personal computer boom of 1984. And I warned her that my mother’s family, the McMillans, weren’t a textbook publishing conglomerate, or the nation’s premier manufacturer of gun stocks. (My father, however, could never have a mistaken lineage: Marvullo is a made-up name, an Ellis Island misnomer gifted to us by a near-deaf immigration agent and a nascent but already uncaring bureaucracy.)
“My mother is not an heiress to the Marie Callender frozen foods imperium, as you called it,” said Emily. “She is a retired marketing director who likes playing Gears of War and reading Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.”
“I skip his articles,” I said. “It’s always like he’s saying, ‘Golly, look what I found out Can you believe it?.’ Makes me want to barf.”
So these were my future in-laws: off-brand and not quite. I sent a text to Emily while I stood there in full view of a shelf of Marie Callender’s slow-roasted beef with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and tender vegetables.
“So you have no stake in this?” I wrote. I took a picture of the display. One minute passed.
“Nope,” she wrote back. “I’m just me.”
I married her on May 20, 2017 on a cloudless afternoon, among friends and family. We married each other for love and not potential windfalls, which is how love should manifest in my opinion.
Here is “Play Money” by the New Pornographers, one of my favorite songs of the year.
The New Pornographers’ “Play Money” is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.]