After a long, emotionally-draining day, I sat with my husband on the couch, glad for his company but too wrapped up in my own mind to notice what we were watching on TV.
“You know what, honey?” I asked him. I probably waited until a car commercial, because even when I’m distracted, I’m good like that.
“What?” He hit the mute button on the remote and turned to me.
I sat up a little straighter.
“I’m a tough goddamn cookie.”
He smiled at me.
“Yes. Yes you are.”
“I’m… I’m one of those oatmeal cookies so hard you’ve gotta dip them in milk first so you don’t break a tooth. Tough.” I may or may not have flexed a bicep to demonstrate my toughitude.
He considered my statement for a moment.
“No, those are too brittle. You’d just fall to pieces. You’re a Chewy Chips Ahoy. You bend but you don’t break.”
He kissed me, and I cried just a little. Then I wondered if maybe I was awesome enough to be the kind with the rainbow chips.
We were driving home after dinner at a new Italian place, very full and very happy. An aluminum pie plate sat at my feet. The leftover penne and meatballs contained within it made the car smell absolutely delicious. We passed some nondescript brown brick buildings, and Dave read one of the signs out front.
“Look,” he said, pointing to the buildings, “A food bank! If you want, we can drop off those leftovers so you can withdraw them later.”
“Um, I think food banks give your food to other people.”
He feigned shock. “Then that’s a horrible bank!”
“They take your deposited food and give it to others,” I explained to my husband. “Basically, it’s redistribution of food wealth. Fucking commies.”
“We should look for a food credit union. We could probably get a better food interest rate.”
“And lower fees?” I asked.
“I wonder if a food bank would have a foreign food transaction fee.”
Dave looked over at me. “Like, if you deposited Ramen noodles, they’d take a cut?”
“Oh, definitely.” He nodded vigorously. “That’s how they get you.”
“I married a Canadian – whom I love very much – and she introduced me to a great band called Great Big Sea. And this song is in NO WAY dedicated to her. At all.”
We needed this cruise. More than I realized; more than I can really explain.
Different couples deal with stress in different ways. Some argue, slam doors, and seek out space away from one another. Some look so far outside the relationship for comfort or for escape that nothing can be salvaged.
I have always been afraid that stress would pull my relationships apart. My family doesn’t have a good record in that area. Almost every one of my aunts and uncles who married found themselves in a hurtful and bitter divorce. My parents’ relationship was strained and uncomfortable for years, and ended the same way.
My first boyfriend abandoned me when my parents’ divorce made me “too goddamn sad all the time” and “annoying to be around.” I see now that it was an unstable and unhealthy young-adult relationship that was a bad idea from the start, but it crushed my 18-year-old self. I dropped out of college and floated through several months in a blur before finding the light again and crawling my way towards it. I went back to school. I tried to be sociable. But things were different. I had witnessed a relationship I thought was the most solid and reliable one in the whole world – my parents’ marriage – falling angrily apart in front of me. I had no good role models, nobody to look to for thoughts on a healthy relationship except the columnists at Cosmo and the couples on Friends.
When my husband and I were moving towards our wedding day, I was flooded with conflicting thoughts. Of course we’d last forever – we loved each other so much, understood each other so well, laughed so often together. But everyone must think that at one time, or nobody would ever risk the commitment of marriage. Who could say, then, whether our relationship could withstand all the years ahead, all the problems that would come our way?
It’s been a hard year for us. Members of my family, far away in Canada, have been sick and needing surgery. I lost one grandmother, and the other is 98 and fading. I’m far away and can’t be there for the ones I love, and the guilt eats away at me. I left my old job, which meant leaving some of my support group behind. Other friends moved away. I’m still striving to find my role in my career and in this world. Arguing with immigration agents. Arguing with health insurance companies. Struggles and loss. I got scared. Scared for us.
I tell my husband, often, how much I love him. I cling to him sometimes when we’re in our office together. I drape my arms over his shoulders, my cheek pressed into his beard, as he reads message boards and checks his email. I doubt. I worry, analyzing everything. I ask him again and again whether we’ll be okay, whether we’ll stick together, all the while hating myself for asking but not always able to stop. His answers are always the same, always reassuring, always patient, always yes, yes, of course, I love you and we’re in this for the long haul no matter what.
“How Did We Get From Saying ‘I Love You'”, by Great Big Sea, is a breakup song. It’s about running into your ex after the breakup and realizing you can’t find anything in common anymore, anything to talk about except the smalltalk of strangers. It’s heartbreakingly sad. My feelings of inadequacy and fear of divorce and loneliness make a song like this really resonate with me.
And my husband played this song for me, at an open mic night on our cruise. Knowing how much I love hearing him play music, my husband found a way to dedicate his performance to me without dedicating the song itself. A little gesture, spontaneous, touching. It meant so much. Maybe we’ve come from saying “I Love You” to the place where the words don’t matter as much as the sentiment, and maybe I can be okay with that. I am loved.
I’m linking up with some amazing bloggers over at Yeah Write. Stop by and spend a little time reading and supporting the gang!
It was a dark and foggy night as we pulled into the driveway after a lovely dinner out. I stepped out of the car and shivered in the eerie quiet. The porch light cut a faint orange cone through the fog – all else was damp and grey.
“Hurry and open the door,” I said to my husband. “I don’t want to be stuck out here with all the scary creatures in the mist.” I held my leftover French dip sandwich a little tighter in its paper bag.
“You mean Werewolves and such?” He looked up and down our silent street. “Don’t they live on the moors?”
“Aren’t there werewolves in London? They can totally live in cities. The important part is the mist. Werewolves live in the mist.” I paused. “With the gorillas.”
This is the 15th of my “Advent Calendar” Christmas ornament posts. For some background information about this project and why I’m challenging myself to complete it, see here. Note: it’s entirely possible some of these memories are inexact, but I’m sticking with them anyway.
Every year, after the lights are lit and all the ornaments are on the tree, my husband and I stop a moment and argue. We have vastly different opinions on the correct item to place at the top of the tree, and this ideological rift follows us from Christmas to Christmas. Angel or star?
He’s from an angel family. I grew up with stars. Well, with something like this, if you can call it a star:
Now that I think about it, it’s possible that we sometimes had an angel on the tree when I was a kid. Could my parents have had this same argument, year after year? Have I dragged this feud into the next generation? I’ll have to ask them.
As for our home, things haven’t devolved into uncivilized and violent Coke vs. Pepsi territory yet, but each of us is clearly disappointed if the “wrong” thing is at the top of the tree. I’m not sure how to best move past our differences. We alternate years, for now. I’m careful to take a picture of the tree each year as evidence so we know whose turn is next – gotta keep it fair.
Last year, I thought I hit on the perfect solution. I found a Yoda tree topper. With LED glowing lightsaber. Not a star, not an angel, but something we could both enjoy. A tradition we could hand down to our future children, a way to make the annual debate a distant memory of an unenlightened time. Unfortunately, when I took Yoda out of the box, his lightsaber was broken in half.
A sign. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. Was treetop Yoda my passive-aggressive way to win and get rid of angels for good? I hung my head. I put him back into the box. I returned him to the store.
For now, compromise, we must.