OBSERVED: Shopping and the secret to a successful marriage

This week, my wife and I celebrate our 13th anniversary.

  • West Orange Times & Observer
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This week, my wife and I celebrate our 13th anniversary. In that time, we have become parents to three children, owned five cars and moved three times. We’ve celebrated milestones, endured loss and even renovated a kitchen that one time. Plus, we have worked together for longer than we have been married, so yeah … we’re pretty awesome at this whole “’Til death do us part” thing.

Truly, my wife is my best friend. And that’s why she knows she can send texts like the ones she did a few weeks ago. I was on my way to the store, and she had a few more items to add to the list: Birthday party plates, Chapstick and … let’s just call them napkins.

That list was followed by an image of the exact package of napkins I was to procure.

Before I go any further, I should mention this was written — and published — with my wife’s blessing. I’m no dummy.

Much like our 18-month-old daughter, I make use of my knowledge of colors and shapes when shopping for napkins. Blue package with yellow wrappers. Oval napkins with no silly wingie things hanging off the sides. We’ve been married for 13 years. This ain’t my first rodeo.

I cruise to special napkin aisle with my head high. There are, by my count, six million different types, brands, shapes and variations of napkins. There are small napkins. Big napkins. Napkins with silly wingie things. Napkins for heavy-duty use. The napkin aisle takes the same amount of space as every toiletry a man could ever need — from the tops of our receding-hairline heads to the bottoms of our athlete’s feet. 

But I’m armed with knowledge — and a photo. My eyes first find the correct blue packaging and then start zeroing in. OK, found the yellow napkins. I squat down to get a closer look. All the yellow ones have silly wingie things.

All of them.

I stand up, put one hand on my head and grab a handful of hair. Just then, a wonderful older couple strolls up next to me. 

“Uh oh,” the woman says. “You look like you need help.”

“Yep,” the man agrees.

I explain the situation and tell them I need the yellow ones with no silly wingie things. The woman starts searching with me. After a few seconds, I start rifling through the rows of napkins and finally — thankfully — find what I need hidden behind a package of silly wingies.

The man smiles. 

“You can go home now,” he says, knowingly.

To the couple who helped me: Thank you for your kindness and for taking pity on a stranger that day. Someday, I hope my wife and I are able to pay it forward to another poor soul we happen upon in the napkin aisle.

To my wife: I’ll always be ready and willing to go napkin shopping for you. Happy 13th.



Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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