Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I can't see me lovin' nobody but you...

Gypsy Hill Park swans in their February stance

Valentine's Day -- as silly, trite, commercial, and forced as it very much is -- is a big deal to me. 19 Valentine's Days ago marked the first time that Ethan and I officially said, "OK, this is a thing, I think you are a pretty big deal" -- only, in true him-and-me fashion, I was the one to blunder through all of that while he suavely navigated his way.

Ben and Lily
I can't remember what I got him. I remember it was a huge deal, this whole, "Do I get him something? Do I not? What do I do? What is appropriate and not weird? What kind of card isn't sappy and isn't babyish and isn't too wordy?" Whatever it was, I got it, and I put it in our college's mail center to be distributed to him. I fretted and worried, my stomach hurt, I wanted to renege but then said, "Buck up, soldier!" and waited, wondering what on earth I was doing.

Ada, almost 4

It wasn't like we were a "thing"; the most we had done together was eat at a restaurant with the History Society (which I joined because he was in it) on the way to the Dallas Holocaust Museum. We were the only two students to color two of the children's pages on the restaurant table, the students voted, and everyone liked his better. (To be fair and completely transparent, it was a largely female audience, so I contest that the contest had little to do with any artistic ability. Ahem.)

I was a frequent patron at the campus library where he worked. I checked out titles that I thought would impress him, took the tomes to a table at the back of the library, and inevitably used the books as pillows as I fell asleep contemplating Puritans and Rushdoony's Christian Reconstructionism and whether I'd read enough to make Ethan believe I knew what I was talking about.

Eden, Abraham, Gideon, and Jonathan
He would wake me up, let me know the library was closing, and we would walk out together.

That was it.

And now here I was, nervously waiting for him to get my Valentine and ... well, and I don't know what. Let me know where I stood, I guess. Smother my intentions with a cool, "Thanks for the card" or maybe fan the spark.

So I waited.

Zeb, Ada, Salem, and Gideon

And on Valentine's Day, I opened my campus mailbox to find a Valentine from HIM. I do remember what that was. It was a pack of shoelaces with hearts all over them and a Valentine's card. The card was a spread of a town, with removable stickers to arrange at will. He had scrawled something to the effect of "Here is a town you can Christian Reconstruct to your heart's content. Rushdoony would be proud..."

And my heart swelled. I mean, I was on Cloud Nine. I was elated, I was overjoyed, I laced those shoelaces in whatever shoes I had with laces (??? I don't even remember!) and skipped on over to the library.

And I can't even remember what happened. I can't remember the series of events that led to, "This is it. We are a thing. I like you, you like me, expect me to eat with you and go to church with you and ask about your day and keep you warm and make you lose your cool and someday we'll have eleven children."

All I can really remember is that it started with Valentine's Day.


Now, a bit after that day, not years and years but maybe just days, I found out the real story of the gift in my CPO box. And the real story was that Ethan had a friend who worked in the Mail Center and told him that I had dropped off a little box to go in his CPO. So Ethan went out to the local grocery store, on his bike no doubt, and got a little something for me. Then he had his friend open up the Mail Center after hours and put those laces and that card in my box.

Jon-Jon, Abey, Miriam, and Lily

And do you know what? I don't even care. I don't care that I started it. Kudos to me, I say! I am the one with the handsome husband and the eleven children who are so much like their father of whom I cannot get enough, I am the one with the messy kitchen that he comes home to every day, I am the one who gets to iron his clothes and hear his laugh and groan at his wisecracks.


And eighteen Valentine's Days later, I can say that I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue! I only knew that he was handsome and funny and smart and strong as a horse. I didn't know that after fifteen years of marriage, I would think he was more handsome, and funnier, and smarter, and stronger in so many more ways.

Ethan and Zebby

I didn't know that he would start a series of vacation pictures entitled, "Places Rachel has nursed a baby," or that our 14-year old would listen to our old "Journey" cd's and sing along as he did his math, or that our 3-year old would call him "Oh my Baby Doll," or that our 2-year old would say, "I want to hold you" when he wanted to get in our laps, or that eight other children would also have to be counted in order to not leave anyone at church...again.

But if I would have known? I wouldn't have believed it, and I wouldn't have understood the complete joy that comes with all of that.

I don't need to reconstruct anything about us.

(Except, maybe, the nursing pictures.)

Places Rachel Has Nursed a Baby: The Wright Bros. Museum edition

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