When a nip is in the air and anticipation fills the hearts of men, it can only mean one thing: Deer season is near!
The weeks ahead will transform husbands who can’t find matching socks into great hunters bent on finding the hidden lairs of bucks.
When John and I were first married (in a ceremony conveniently scheduled between hunting seasons), he told me of his love for hunting. After much smooching and schmoozing, I grew to understand that he needed this time to “get back to nature” and “to put food on the table.” (How noble!)
I helped him that first year, lovingly baking cakes and frying chicken for his meals in the wild. After hugs, kisses and good-luck wishes, I waved goodbye with a sadness reserved for departing military personnel.
The days dragged on in his absence and I fretted about his safety, his comfort and his limited supply of clean underwear. Smiling, I wondered if he had discovered the five-page love note I’d stuffed into his rifle case.
His return was full of pomp and circumstantial stories, and cause for much romance and celebration. I listened with expressions of awe to his minute-by-minute account of victory. Or defeat. It didn’t matter.
“Hunting doesn’t always mean killing,” he would intone wisely. I fell for it like a deer hearing a grunt call.
Years flew by on calendars marked, “Days left ‘til deer season”, right along with birthdays, doctors’ appointments, and national holidays. We settled into a pattern of wedded bliss that felt right on target.
When our daughter was born, however, I began to feel just a tad resentful of John’s yearly outdoor ritual. Time to himself: What was that? It had been months since I’d even been able to go to the bathroom without interruptions.
My life was an endless round of bottles, burping and boredom interrupted only by deer season.
I packed his supplies with less enthusiasm, sending potato chips and cheap, chicken lunchmeat in plastic bags. I didn’t feel like sending a love note. I wanted to send a baby wipe with a more caustic message on it.
My tired scowl and our daughter’s wails of “DADDY” pierced the rear window of his departing truck; gravel flew like buckshot from the tires in his haste to find friendlier beasts.
Time changes marriages like the seasons change leaves. There were years when I resented his hunting, and years when I would have happily pushed his truck down the driveway — bare-handed — just to see him go away for a few days and leave me in peace.
Now that both our daughter and our marriage have matured (both growing with the grace only time provides), I find myself a little giddy with excitement when deer season opens.
Alone, armed with plastic and time, I can shop for hours. I can binge-watch seasons of shows. Fast food will reign supreme.
Our marriage has lasted 37 deer seasons so far — 74, if you count archery seasons. Like sandpaper on rough wood, I have been worn down to accept hunting’s place in our marriage.
I understand that deer season brings a thrill to my husband that most kids lose their first Christmas without Santa.
I sent John off this year with a good-luck kiss and a box of hunter-friendly food. I watched him walk to his truck with the happiness of a man shedding years in moments.
I know I will have to endure the long story of the hunt when he returns. But I will listen with my heart, treasuring the twinkle in his eyes as he drones.
And, oddly, I look forward to kissing the unshaven, unbathed man who will return with a smile full of unbrushed teeth and a renewed sense of wonder.
Oh, dear. Oh, deer!