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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane

Bob Newhart Names Madeleine Begun Kane Winner of 2008 Robert Benchley Society Award For Humor


"We've lost power!" I shrieked, as the lights went out and a Brahms concerto stopped mid-cadenza. "It's okay," my husband Mark said, in a futile attempt to calm me down. For already I was ransacking the house in search of flashlights, candles, matches and batteries. And as usual, I'd hidden them away in a safe and elusive spot.

"Don't worry," Mark said, when he finally had my attention. "We'll bundle up in front of the fireplace. We'll eat by candlelight, sip wine, and talk. It'll be nice. You won't even miss the light."

That episode, which climaxed in a delightful, albeit light-impaired evening, illustrates our differences in the romance department. A quick bit of history: More than thirty years ago Mark proposed on his knees in the middle of the street, while I rushed to brush off his pants. His encore the next night was to supplement his weekly floral offering with a pair of crystal candlesticks. I, of course, fretted about their price.

Mark went through with the wedding, despite my apparent lack of the romance gene. Perhaps he felt he had sentiment enough for two. Or maybe he thought I'd come around some day -- that my romantic spirit was merely submerged, just waiting to be tapped.

After all, unlike my stoicism in matters romantic, my feelings have always surged in other areas of life. Trespassing mice provoke me to emotional heights. I can be quite intemperate when a driver fails to budge at a budding green light. And a bank card-eating cash machine can be counted on to generate a passionate rage.

Yet, despite my otherwise volatile temperament, I remained romance resistant. Undaunted by the challenge, my husband persevered, continuing to court me years after we'd tied the knot. Not that he's perfect, I hasten to add for the benefit of anyone eager to take him off my hands. He'll be the first to admit he's an absent-minded Oscar to my Felix. But while he usually forgets to check the oil in our car, he's never let our oil lamps run on empty.

For years, my instinctive response to Mark's displays of sentiment was to say "You're joking, right?" Before you call me an ingrate, let me quickly add that I resisted the impulse. I'm a polite person, after all. Besides, when you're in love, pretending to enjoy romance is some of the easiest acting you're called upon to do. It doesn't demand half the range needed to charm your future in-laws.

I'm happy to report that Mark's persistence eventually paid off. Over the years I've gradually adapted to his displays of sentiment. I've learned to smile appreciatively at sweet shaving cream nothings on our vanity mirror...without so much as a peep about the mess. I even stopped griping about wildflower trails littering our living room rug. However, I still won't concede that a wax-encrusted table is a fair exchange for candlelight bliss.

So, what exactly are we doing together? Besides the romance issue, I'm a neatnick, he's a slob, and we both need to be the boss. I know -- our relationship doesn't make much sense. But then love isn't supposed to, is it? It's that indefinable spark that somehow draws people together. That mysterious "je ne sais quoi." That strange attraction. That... Oh my gosh, this romantic stuff may be catching.

Actually, I believe it is. For as much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes look forward to a candlelit meal, with a Chopin Mazurka playing softly in the background. And occasionally, when I think I'm feigning pleasure at Mark's latest romantic foray, I realize I'm not pretending.

I confess that I'd miss those cards he sends me on a whim. That I like sipping champagne in front of a fireplace in a darkened room. That I enjoy slipping away midday for an intimate lunch. And that over the years, when I wasn't looking, Mark transformed me into a romantic.

Hmmmm... A power outage is starting to sound like fun!

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Midwest Today Magazine
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