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Opinion Pieces
March 27, 2005
57 Varieties: A Tale Of Two Entities


By Joe Klock, Sr,

More than a century ago, Henry John Heinz originated the "57 Varieties" identity for his company, which was then offering 60 varieties of food products. This apparently-flawed math puzzled people at the time and has since lost all relevance to the firm now reportedly selling around 5700 varieties of "stuff" all over the world.

The fact is that the pertinent numbers in John's selection were the single digits of 5 and 7, which had some mystical meaning to him and his wife. That significance, somehow related to numerology, went with them to their graves, while the combined number and slogan live on.

"57" takes on a special meaning early next month to the writer and Firstwife, whose plunge into domesticity occurred in 1948, a year more often remembered for introduction of the 33-1/3 rpm record, the Berlin Blockade, the first jumbo (16") TV screen, the Kinsey Report, the Bic ballpoint pen and good ol' Charlie Brown.

The "varieties" part relates to the fact that we've participated in at least that many mergers of at least that many pairs of individuals since we first began operating under the same name, roof and blanketry.

That is to say, we were never again the same two people as those willowy, naive and myopic post-adolescents who unhesitatingly said "I do" before they really knew what they were doing.

With each year, and sometimes more frequently, we became different individuals, sometimes better, worse, richer, poorer, and the other statuses forecast at the altar, altered by events we could neither have foreseen nor would have considered acceptable at the time.

We learned, for example, that in the mathematics of marriage, two can live as cheaply as one only if half of them chooses not to eat, be clothed and use pharmaceuticals (inter alia). This, of course, is true in all of nature, except when one of the committed partners is a cow and the other a cattle egret.

Clearly, two can live together less expensively than they can live apart, incontrovertibly illustrated by both courtship and divorce.

We learned, too, that the economics of marriage work best when one simple rule is observed: If you can't afford it and you can possibly live without it, DO without it!

We also learned that the key to cohabitation is a combination of compromise and respect for the other party's "space," however limited that might be at times. Most commonly, this involves things like "him" learning to wait, "her" abandoning all claim to the TV remote and both recognizing that there is no money and no problem that is not "ours."

When people ask us how it's possible to stay married to the same person for 57 years, we can't answer with any semblance of honesty, because it just didn't work out that way.

Many of the stars that were in our eyes on April 3, 1948 are long gone from view, some having fallen, some having dimmed, and still others having been simply forgotten.

That would be bad news, except for the stars that have arisen since then, in the form of shared experiences, personal discoveries, new insights, growing interdependency, priceless memories and memorable works in collaboration, both human and otherwise - that former category now numbering 8 begats, their 19 begottens and, to date, four "greats."

This is evidence of another flaw in matrimonial math that paid off in the long run. One plus one did not add up to two and didn't stop at three. That private population explosion kept us in a state of kinetic solvency (outrunning poverty through constant flight), but gave us a family that is precious beyond measure, and growing more so with each passing day.

And so, as our steps grow slower, our wrinkles deeper, our hearing less acute (and/or, admittedly, more selective on occasion), we celebrate not only the longevity and durability of our joint venture, but the variety of partners we became, came to know, worried with, argued with, hated at times, loved always, comforted, aggravated and clung to when the going got rough - always under that same name, roof and blanketry.

Our 57 varieties have, to say the least, been quite a slice of life for Firstwife and me - two dumb-but-lucky young lovers who are now old, dear and, most importantly, best friends.

Footnote: The use of "Firstwife" is a reminder to all interested parties that no matter how long a relationship lasts, one must never grow complacent!

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