Making the Moment

Some things just take the cake. Others make it taste really, really good.

And no, I don’t mean the frosting.

Ask the University of Minnesota. The folks up in the Land of 1,000 Lakes Plus The Start of One Honkin’ Big River recently did a study that found a curious thing: simply wearing a Vikings jersey can decrease a football team’s Super Bowl chances by a factor of 10.

No, wait. That’s not it. What the researchers really found was that singing “Happy Birthday” before eating a cake made it taste better. And no, it doesn’t work if you just slouch down in your chair and die of embarrassment while the waiters at Three Margaritas do it instead. You’ve got to be personally involved.

(No word yet, by the way, on whether the slightly off-key singing of a televised clown adds anything to the mix. Attention to all Blinky’s Fun Club veterans – the next avenue of research awaits!)

It’s not just the singing, mind you. Lighting and blowing out the candles counts, too. Even the smallest ritual that adds “intrinsic interest” matters, U of M researcher Kathleen Vohs told the world in a release, down to making a big deal of how you unwrap and eat a chocolate bar.

That’s interesting. Weird, but interesting.

And it confirms the results of my own 15-year-long experiment. The one that involves a gold ring on the left hand of two people.

Heather and I married on July 25, 1998. Since then, like most couples, we’ve added a lot of rituals and traditions to our lives. Sometimes it was even on purpose.

There’s been the tradition of sleeping at least one night under the Christmas tree, fulfilling a childhood dream of Heather’s.

Or the accidental tradition for many Thanksgivings of having take-out pizza on Turkey Day – a combination of family illness and nothing else being open.

Even before we married, of course, we partook in the universal date night tradition of Passing The Buck. “So where do you want to go tonight?” “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” “I asked you first.”

And of course, the last two years have added a host of Missy-related rituals, from teasing her out of bed in the morning (Heather found that an off-key rendition of “Cracklin’ Rosie” works really well) to reading her to sleep at night.

Just like the much-repeated birthday song, each new tradition added a little spice. It fixed the memories into place. It put us in the moment.

For the survival of a marriage, that last can be the most valuable of all.

I know, I know. There’s a lot of people who will warn against letting a relationship slide into routine. And they’re right. Taking each other for granted is the surest way to turn a marriage gray, to the point where each partner suddenly wonders if the other has noticed them at all.

This is the opposite of that.

This is finding a way to set aside moments and make them special.

This is a way to focus attention on what you’re doing.

This is claiming drops of the sea of time and saying “This is for us. Here and now.”

It makes a difference.

And just like in the study, it doesn’t work if you’re only a spectator. You have to help make the moment, no matter how many times you may have made it before.

That’s when it becomes truly yours.

We’ve had a lot of moments in 15 years. I look forward to many more.

Somehow, I don’t think we’ll find it hard to do.

In fact, it might just be a piece of cake.