Columnist seeks answers to household mysteries

There’s a small plastic bulb on my bedroom shelf that spits out air freshener at odd intervals. It appeared one day without explanation, something I’ve grown used to since I got married. Marriage seems to have triggered in my wife a series of actions designed to confuse me.

Take the bulb: I have no idea why we require automated aromas, nor how the thing works. Am I doing something smelly that triggers it? It emits a cloud that floats toward my dogs, making me wonder if I should dive in front of it to save them. There’s a nightlight in the bathroom that looks like a tiny, lighted aquarium. I have no idea where it came from — we don’t have kids, nor any need for a nightlight for that matter because we keep forgetting to turn the hallway light off.

One of the first things I noticed after we moved in to our house was that candles appeared in every room as if visited by fairies from the Colonial era. The candles are scented and therefore at war with my nostrils, the kitchen smelling of pine and peppermint while the bathrooms smell of coconut and lavender. They must be magically unable to set the house on fire as my wife happily leaves it to me to blow them out after she’s gone to bed.

As time went on, stuffed animals began appearing in nooks and on bookshelves throughout the house. When I protested at the rate of their reproduction, it was explained to me that this one was her very first teddy bear, and this one from her dead grandmother, and this one from that trip to New Mexico. Every single stuffed creature had a backstory, making my objection proof of my heartlessness. “Don’t you remember this one? You won it for me on our third date … .”

Even our refrigerator bears the strange signs of my wife’s nesting. One side resembles the makeshift shrines that pop up at disaster sites: a collection of pictures, prayer cards, and scraps of paper with important information we forgot to label properly. My only contribution is a magnetized can opener shaped like a mug of beer. The front — and I presume this is the case with all Americans — is apparently the “showcase” side, the prized real estate where most-favored relatives and friends appear. In our case, it’s mostly the pictures people send us because we’re too cheap to print out pictures on our cell phones. Birth announcements and wedding invitations are held in place by magnets from various fast food joints or muffler repair shops.

The inside of the refrigerator is even more confounding. On the day we bought it, an open box of baking soda appeared in the very back (which I almost never eat). Tiny plastic lemons and limes materialized on the side shelves, right next to bottles of red curry sauce and organic tamari. My trusty ketchup is now surrounded by bottles of chunky tomato and feta salad dressing, and vials of flax seed oil. Right next to my milk, glass beakers of strange concoctions ferment into a white film that my wife harvests for cultures (and unsuccessfully tries to get me to drink).

Like most husbands, I know that whatever these things are and whatever their use, we probably need them. I’m just not smart enough to know why. However, I might need to rethink my choice of deodorant — another air freshening bulb just appeared in the living room.

You can read more at and contact him at or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.