On March 29, 2008, I walked down the aisle and said two words I’d been waiting a lifetime to say to my beautiful bride, Michelle: “I do.” I was finally done with the single life. No more JDate.com, no more JewishFarmersOnly.Com. I married the woman of my dreams and was ready to start the next chapter of my life. We lived in a townhouse in Tarzana and one day I was upstairs working and heard a loud beeping noise. I started hearing people scream, “Hello! Is anyone home? Your house is on fire!” I ran downstairs and opened the garage door to find the car on fire amid a raging inferno. I slammed the door shut, grabbed the dog and ran outside. Within minutes, our entire townhouse was engulfed in flames. Three weeks earlier, we couldn’t have been happier. Now, it couldn’t get much worse. Our home was destroyed and we lost everything.
That night, we slept at Michelle’s parents’ house a few miles away, although neither one of us was able to sleep. We were both still in complete shock. At one point in the middle of the night, Michelle turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “What should we do now?” I knew this was a defining moment for me. What I said next would affect the rest of our lives and foreshadow how I would be as a husband, father and provider. I looked her in the eyes and with strong conviction I said, “Honey, I think we should fuck.” “I’m serious,” she said. “So am I.” We didn’t fuck. We just laid in bed and made small talk until the sun came out the next morning.
During the next few days we met with several contractors and decided to hire Jeff because he told us he’d have our place rebuilt in six months. And I loved that he constantly quoted aphorisms that made no sense. My favorite was, “Rebuilding a house is like a bear taking Viagra. If the snow ain’t cold, the bear can’t score a touchdown.” We then started looking for places to live and my in-laws suggested we move in with them. “Why spend the money?” they said. They were right. Plus, we still had to pay the mortgage for our townhouse. We took them up on their offer and moved into Michelle’s old room.
If any of you are thinking about moving in with your in-laws, ask yourselves these questions. Does anyone in the house happen to be a hypochondriac or a neat-freak or have OCD? Is your room next to the only working bathroom? Are they on a high-fiber diet and forbid the use of air fresheners? Does putting on the heat or air-conditioning or opening the garage more than once a day cause vertigo? Is your wife going to make you have sex on the floor since the bed makes too much noise? Will you have to squeegee the shower after each use? If you answered yes to any of these questions, please think long and hard before moving in with your in-laws.
When we first moved in, we were all on our best behavior. It was definitely an adjustment period for all of us. The only real privacy we had was in our room, and since the door didn’t have a lock, we didn’t really have privacy. Michelle and I got along for the most part but we did bump heads a few times, which is to be expected. Our friends would say to us, “This is a great test for your marriage.” To which I responded, “I graduated from college. I’m done with tests. Marriage isn’t supposed to be about tests. Complicated and trying at times? Of course. But a test? Definitely not.”
A month later, Michelle woke me up at 6:00 a.m. to the words, “I’m pregnant,” and showed me the test strip. Now that‘s a test that’s appropriate for marriage. Finally, some good news. On a side note, whenever you’re talking to a married couple and the husband says, “We’re pregnant!” punch him in the fucking face. Most of the time I was sitting on the couch watching baseball games while Michelle was dealing with morning sickness, bleeding gums, increased salivation, tiredness, insomnia, constipation, hemorrhoids, stretch marks, backaches, leg cramps, heartburn and swollen breasts that I couldn’t touch! There’s nothing “we” about it.
The following months became increasingly trying. The honeymoon period ended and everyone’s best behavior went out the door. It was evident when nose picking, passing gas, no knocking when entering our room and my father-in-law walking around in ripped underwear with his yam sack hanging out became the norm. Time crawled by and each month felt like an eternity.
December rolled around and I was at my wits’ end of living with my in-laws. Michelle was eight months pregnant and our town house was way behind schedule. I think Michelle knew I was sick of living with her parents because I told her at least twice a day I was sick of living with her parents. We started fighting constantly and we both probably questioned how we were going to get through this. One day I was so miserable I decided to stop by the townhouse since Jeff said they’d really stepped up the work. I thought seeing the progress would definitely lift my spirits.
When I arrived, there was barely any work done since my last visit. I asked Jeff whether January was still our target move-in date. “Unfortunately, no. It’s looking more like spring.” “Spring?” I said? “Definitely. Probably summer.” At that moment, I lost it. “Let me fill you in with what’s going on in my life. My wife and I have zero privacy, I’ve had virtually no sex, our room smells like an Andy Gump, my hygiene has gone to shit because I won’t squeegee after I shower and my regular coffee has been replaced with decaf so I won’t get vertigo. My only saving grace was moving back in January and having a Superbowl party, but now you’re fucking Viagra-taking bear can’t score a touchdown!” After a brief pause, Jeff said, “Remember, son, patience is akin to a pregnant horse eating a bowl of pasta — the sauce has to be creamy.” I paused for a second and replied, “Like everything you say, that makes absolutely no sense! Let me put it in terms I think you’ll understand. Finish my house or your Viagra-taking bear … can’t … just finish the fucking house!” I started to leave and wanted to slam the door shut but I couldn’t because there was literally no door.
On January 14, Michelle went into labor. Fifteen long hours later, our son, Tristan, was born. When he was in my arms for the first time, for that very brief moment, I forgot all about our struggles and prayed he’ll be taller than me. The doctor turned to me and said, “Would you like to cut the cord?” I said to him, “You’re putting me to work? Haven’t I done enough?”
Our room, which really wasn’t our room, now became home to two adults, a dog and a baby. Tristan really helped take our minds off our living situation and we loved being parents. I tried to help as often as I could but I was somewhat useless since I wasn’t lactating. When Tristan was 4 months old, he finally slept through the night for the first time. I’m glad he did because that morning, Michelle woke me to the very familiar words, “I’m pregnant.” Who knew my in-laws’ house was such a fertile haven? I suggested to a few of my friends whose wives were struggling getting pregnant to go fuck at my in-laws’. Too bad no one took me up on it.
After 14 months of living with my in-laws, we finally moved back into our townhouse. Just as the first night after the fire, we didn’t sleep at all and we didn’t fuck. For the second time in our marriage we became newlyweds and our beautiful daughter, Bailey, soon followed.
Having my house burn down was the single most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me. But I survived and Michelle and I have an incredible bond that will never be broken. I never viewed out situation as a test. However, now that I look back, it probably was a test. We struggled mightily and to be totally honest, at times I really did question whether she would leave me. It was incredibly emasculating moving into my wife’s parents’ house. I felt like a pauper and she deserved a prince. But that just speaks to Michelle’s amazing character.
Today when I face adversity, I remind myself that if I can survive my house burning down and living with my in-laws for 14 months, I can handle anything. And I know where my in-laws hide their Xanax. As it turns out, we did pass the test. A test I will never take again.
Originally from Chicago, David Feinberg moved to Los Angeles a year after graduating from the University of Iowa with a BA in Communications from its famed Writers’ Program. After college, his first job was working for legendary filmmaker John Hughes. David has had a successful career as a sports content, film, and television writer and performer. He wrote for Scrubs, has sold multiple pilots, and worked with the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Sacha Baron Cohen and Matthew McConaughey. He’s also created content for the Los Angeles Clippers, Dodgers and Sparks. A formerly highly ranked junior player, David moonlights as a tennis pro. He has two incredible children and just celebrated his 11th wedding anniversary. And yes, he loves his in-laws very much and feels lucky to have them, especially when they babysit.
Photo courtesy of the author