Pacific Northwest | September 14, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineSeptember 14, home
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Still Married, With Children
The more things change, the more they stay the same
I have four kids. I started my first Sunday Punch column 15 years ago with that simple statement.

Well, I still have four kids, and I am still married to the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston.

When people ask, I like to assure them that I am still a "hap-hap-happily married man." Mrs. Johnston always laughs when I do my "hap-hap-happily married" routine. Then she gives me a sharp jab in the old breadbasket.

When I wrote the first Sunday Punch column in 1988, I said that people looked at me like I had lost control of my bodily functions when I said we had four children. That particular situation was corrected when Mrs. Johnston had me and our dog Duke fixed at the same time. She said it was a two-for-one sale.

Some things have stayed pretty much the same in the past 15 years, but a lot has changed. The kids aren't really kids anymore. Only one of them is still at the family home; the others have flown the coop for college and careers. I still consider them "kids," however, even though two of them can buy me a drink in a bar. That has never happened, but they could if they wanted.

The woman who introduced the future Mrs. Johnston to me 25 years ago is still on speaking terms with us. Not only are we still speaking but she is the person who edits this column for the magazine you are now reading. She is also the godmother of one of our children.

I'm still writing about family stuff, and all the odd things I run across in society. A lot of that is the same, too. My first Sunday Punch column was about a part of society called DINKs. The letters stood for Double Income, No Kids. These were couples who made a lot of money and spent their days closing big deals and their evenings drinking white wine, eating imported foods and laughing at jokes only they understood.

On the other side of the street were people like Mrs. Johnston and myself. They were called SILKs, and that stood for Single Income, Lots of Kids. In 1988, a couple with four children was unusual. It is still pretty rare, but 15 years ago people would say, "Wow!" when we said how many kids we had.

In that first column, I pointed out the differences between the lifestyles of DINKs and SILKs. "DINKs go on vacation to some remote Mexican coast villa," I said, "where they water-ski behind a boat and then float up in the air attached to a parachute. They wave at their happy mates sitting on the shore under a large umbrella. Their drinks have matching umbrellas."

"SILKs go on vacation to some remote campground on the Olympic Peninsula with the kids jammed in the back of the nine-passenger Country Squire. The only thing floating out the back is a helium balloon purchased at Pizza and Pipes the night before. Mom and Dad are waving, but they are waving rolled-up newspapers at the kids who are fighting in the back."

I imagine DINKs still enjoy quiet dinners with a good bottle of wine and candlelight while SILKs spend their evenings trying to put together the toy that came with the McDonald's Happy Meal. But Pizza and Pipes, a great family place, is gone, and SILKs cannot go to Chubby and Tubby with their old tennis shoes to get $5 off a new pair because Chubby and Tubby is also gone.

Still, the final lines of that column hold true:

"DINKs say things like, 'You can never be too rich or too thin' (while) SILKs say things like 'You can never be too rested or have enough duct tape.' "

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times reporter. His e-mail address is Paul Schmid is a Times staff artist.

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