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Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Six years

k & j pei beach

Tomorrow we will have been married for six years.

We have been together nearly twice as long as that – we dated off and on (mostly on) through the majority of our college years. By the time I headed off to Oxford to earn a graduate degree, with J staying in west Texas to begin his own graduate program, we were engaged. We planned a wedding over nine months, across an ocean – a challenge I do not recommend, but somehow we made it to the wedding day itself, which was beautiful.

Lindsey recently noted on her blog that “marriage is about abiding. It is about remaining near.” I have thought of these words often over the last few weeks, as we circle around each other in the orbits of our workdays, then spend more sustained time together on the weekends and on our recent vacation. (The photo above is from our beach day on PEI.)

The challenge for me is in remaining near even when I am tired and frustrated. The work of marriage (and really, of all relationships) lies in being present, being thoughtful, being kind, when I’d really rather not make the effort. That is love, as surely as flowers and candlelight and elegantly wrapped gifts (though I do enjoy those gestures of romance).

Marriage is listening to my husband’s account of his days and checking in with him to share mine. It’s making plans and compromises, lists and dinner, balancing our priorities and needs and bank accounts. It is taking care of one another in a thousand small ways. It is a process I’m constantly relearning, and I expect to keep learning it for many years to come.

Six years in, we are still toward the beginning (I hope) of several decades together. But they have been good years, and I’m thankful for them – and thankful for the man who’s walked every step beside me.

j blue mussel lighthouse

Happy anniversary, love. Here’s to the next six, and many more.

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porter square books cambridge ma

The Divorce Papers, Susan Rieger
Criminal lawyer Sophie Diehl gets roped into working a high-profile divorce case. Told entirely through letters, emails, case law and other court documents, this is a wickedly funny, entertaining story of love, divorce and coming to terms with your past. (I’m no lawyer, but I enjoyed it.)

Delicious!, Ruth Reichl
Billie Breslin has landed a job at her dream workplace, the NYC food magazine Delicious!. When the magazine folds, Billie stays on to answer the phones and finds a cache of letters written to James Beard by Lulu Swan, a plucky young cook from Ohio, during WWII. A big-hearted, beautiful story of family, food, love, New York, and finding your way home. (Packed with mouthwatering food descriptions, as one might expect from Reichl.)

Landline, Rainbow Rowell
I loved Rowell’s Attachments and also enjoyed Fangirl. Landline is much more bittersweet: the story of Georgie and Neal, struggling to save their marriage. By some time-space fluke, Georgie discovers she can call Neal’s parents’ house on her mom’s landline and talk to his former self, giving her a fresh perspective on their relationship. Compelling, but somehow unsatisfying. (I received an ARC; this book comes out July 8.)

The Geography of You and Me, Jennifer E. Smith
I love Smith’s YA novels about unlikely love. This one was charming, but lacked the depth of her previous ones. Lucy and Owen get stuck in an elevator during a blackout in NYC, spend a wonderful evening together, then both abruptly move away. They stay in touch through postcards, while adjusting to big life changes. Whimsical and poignant.

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, Molly Wizenberg
Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life is one of my favorite food memoirs ever. This book tells the story of how Wizenberg and her husband came to open the titular pizza restaurant in Seattle. A slow start, but it has some great insights on marriage and workplace culture. (Also some delicious-looking recipes.)

Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey
When her school’s unpopular football coach is murdered, Millie Ostermeyer is determined to find out who did it – especially since her assistant-coach dad is a suspect. The (handsome) new kid helps her investigate. Cute and funny – scatterbrained, blunt Millie is the anti-Nancy Drew.

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver’s debut novel follows Taylor Greer, a smart-mouthed Kentucky girl who heads west and finds herself building a new life in Arizona. Full of eccentric characters; warmhearted, funny and moving.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver
After years in Arizona, Kingsolver and her family move to Virginia and decide to try eating entirely local for a year. This involves lots of gardening, farmer’s markets, raising poultry, and longing for off-limits luxuries. Occasionally preachy, but highly informative and passionate. Includes mouthwatering recipes. A re-read and well worth it.

The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax is off on another adventure, this time smuggling passports into Bulgaria and also managing to save a few lives. Full of wild coincidences, but really fun.

The Chapel Wars, Lindsey Leavitt
When Holly’s grandpa dies, she’s shocked to learn she’s inherited his Vegas wedding chapel, and that it’s in dire financial straits. Can she save the chapel, while possibly dating the grandson of the rival chapel owner next door? A smart, funny story of family, grief, first love and the wackiness that is Vegas (Leavitt’s hometown).

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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happy birthday love

katie-jer-harvard-yard

Ten years together has only made me love him more.

k & j san diego bay

Happy 30th birthday, love. You’re my favorite.

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Five years of marriage

Two houses. Three cars. Two master’s degrees (one for each of us). Seven jobs and multiple freelance gigs (between the two of us). Two churches. One new nephew, followed closely by one new niece.

Boerne

Two high school reunions. One cross-country move (totaling more than 2200 miles). Twenty or more weekend getaways. Countless dinner dates and bowls of guacamole, kisses and hugs and a few arguments, quiet evenings in the living room watching Friends or reading or doing the crossword.

k & j fenway

So many Sundays singing next to one another. Five Easters, five Thanksgivings, five Christmases. Hundreds of ordinary days, spent blissfully together.

Happy fifth anniversary, love. I can’t wait for the next five.

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Recently, J and I had lunch with another couple, who moved to Boston this summer. They also have roots in the South, so a discussion of holiday travel plans led to a discussion of road trips, and we began trading stories of our respective treks to Boston.

They recounted their drive from Memphis, how they managed it in a single, grueling 27-hour stretch. They laughed as they remembered navigating their moving truck down narrow Boston streets, with frequent “No Trucks” signs and no place to turn around, no choice but to go forward.

We laughed in sympathy, and shared highlights from our own four-day odyssey from Texas to Boston, two years ago.

road trip car highway sky moving boston

The long first day, the end of which found us still in Texas (albeit on the border). The moving truck trouble that kept us in Nashville an extra twelve hours, to our hostess’ delight and our mixed joy and chagrin. The desperate phone call to friends in southern Virginia, who let us stay at their house even though they were out of town, when it became clear we would never reach Maryland on the third day. (I will never forget that act of kindness.) The long fourth day (and the rain all through Pennsylvania); the fruitless search for a gas station bathroom in Connecticut. The sheer relief of pulling into a driveway west of Boston, well after dark, and Abi running down the sidewalk to meet me, her arms spread wide in welcome.

“These are the stories you tell,” I commented, as I listened to J recount parts of our story and jumped in to add context and details. Our move to Boston is already one of the turning points of our marriage, a jagged, exciting new chapter, and we have already told and retold the tale of how, exactly, we got here. Our friends will do it too: five and ten and thirty years down the line, they will remember the fresh, anxious adrenaline rush of driving that rental truck through Boston.

Some of the details of our moving saga will fade with time; others will make their way into family legend. Our children will know this story, the way I know the stories my dad tells and retells around the dinner table. There are anecdotes from his childhood on a Missouri farm, from when he worked on his uncle’s land in the summers, from his newlywed years with my mom. Stories from when my sister and I were little, many of which became the impetus for family jokes. (My husband and my brother-in-law have heard a lot of explanations over the years, as we four Noahs keep translating our family vernacular for them.)

Just like my dad, I reach for the same stories over and over again, to explain a trait or share a memory or make friends laugh. I often find myself saying to friends, “You’ve probably heard this story before.” But I keep telling them, the same anecdotes and jokes, because those stories make up the fabric of my life, my marriage, my family’s life together.

What stories do you tell over and over again?

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I mentioned recently that the dinner table is central to our liturgy of marriage – so central, in fact, that it has its own liturgy. Inspired by Kari’s thoughts on the liturgy of parenting.

table summer dinner

The Call to the Stove
Hi, love. I’m on my way home.
Great. I’ll start the water boiling, turn on the oven, begin chopping vegetables, and/or assemble the ingredients for a soup, pizza or enchiladas. See you soon.

The Kitchen Dance
Can you hand me that knife? Pass the cutting board.
Is there any more chili powder? We’re out of garlic again.
That looks/smells delicious. Stir the soup, will you? Hand me the spatula.

The Setting of the Table
Do we need forks? Knives? Are there any clean cloth napkins?
There should be. Look in the other drawer.

The Breaking of the Bread
Mmmm. This looks delicious. Lemonade or water?

The Communion
How was your day? Tell me about your clients, your co-workers, your sessions.
I did some writing. Ate lunch in the Public Garden. I’m reading this great book.

The Holy Embrace
Thanks for making dinner. It was delicious.
I’m glad you like it.
I’m glad you made it.

The Clearing
Did you get all the dishes from the table?
I’ll wash, if you dry.

The Amen
Want some ice cream?
Yes. Absolutely.

 

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My friend Kari recently wrote about the liturgy of parenting. While I’m not a parent (though perhaps I will be someday), I’ve been thinking about the liturgy of marriage.

Liturgy is one of those scary church words, calling up images of incense and vestments, chanting and creeds, kneeling and praying and altars and the church calendar. It encompasses all those things. But more simply, Webster’s defines it as “a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observance.” I have heard it defined, broadly, as any sequence of things you do over and over again. My marriage has its own liturgy, one that stretches back four years and is stretching forward into an as yet unknowable number of days.

We wake up side by side, a few minutes before the alarm, and he reaches an arm over to pull me close. We curl into each other like a pair of quotation marks, until the piano music makes itself heard over the whir of the box fan or the oil furnace, and one of us (usually him) gets up.

I wipe the toothpaste off the bathroom faucet, over and over. I tease him, gently, about the clothes on the floor, the dark hairs scattered over the white sink. I tease because I don’t want to nag, because nagging never works, because I don’t want to start off our mornings sniping at one another. I have successfully trained him to make the bed (though I usually do it because he’s the first one up). And he (nearly) always puts his clothes in the hamper, because he can shoot them in like basketballs. He has always been one of those boys who will turn anything into a game of baseball, of basketball, of catch. I am thankful for small victories.

table with tulips dining room

The table is central to the liturgy of our marriage. I grew up in a house where dinner was on the table nearly every night, along with the expectation that we would all be there, together, to pray and eat and laugh and talk about our days. Now, four or five nights a week, six if we’re lucky, we face each other across the dining room table I’ve had since college. (At least once a week, we share dinner with friends, around our own table or theirs.)

We eat pasta and pizza and salad and burritos, soups and enchiladas and other homemade dishes (and, occasionally, takeout) off our red and blue dishes. We use the cloth napkins I bought right after we got married. Sometimes we light candles. We talk about our days, our families, what we’re reading, our jobs. And we laugh.

No one goes to the living room till we’ve either washed and dried the dishes or decided jointly to leave them until tomorrow. I usually wash while he dries, and we step around each other in the choreographed dance of the kitchen, the dance of providing, of tending our home, of creating nourishment to give one another.

We dance around each other in the late evening too, as we brush our teeth, change into pajamas, toss our clothes into laundry hampers or hang them up to wear again. His shoes multiply like mushrooms at the base of his tall hamper. My cardigans and jackets hang on hooks and doorknobs, and once every few days I gather them up and divide them between hamper and closet.

We flop into bed, each with a book. He tackles nonfiction tomes like Kissinger’s book on China, content to stay in one subject, dwell in one set of ideas, for weeks. I save the more cerebral reading for earlier in the day, and for bedtime reading I choose books full of gentle humor and quiet wisdom: Miss Read, Patrick Taylor, assorted middle-grade and young adult lit.

He always turns out his light first (I would read till the wee hours if I didn’t have a day job to go to). I read a few more pages, finishing my chapter, then click off my lamp and reach over to pull him close to me.

We curl into one another like a pair of quotation marks, until one of us shifts or rolls over. Still touching, still barely awake, we murmur, Good night. Sweet dreams. I love you.

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