little things

At not-quite-the-end of a long week of work and deadlines, The Fella came home from work around midnight and sat down with a blank look on his face, getting ready to write the weekly newsletter.

“You look a little beat, hon,” I said. “Did you have dinner?”

“Not really.”

It took me all of three minutes to whip up something simple for him to eat. As I gave him the plate and a beer, The Fella took my hand and quietly, earnestly said, “Thank you. Thank you for marrying me.”

Today is our second anniversary, and The Fella’s hatched some secret plans. (Nothing big, he assures me. Just secret.) The first item on the agenda: he got me an enormous coffee. Number two on the agenda: he’s doing laundry.

This guy gets me.

* [The Fella, don’t hover over the links!] update Now that I’ve given The Fella his gift, I can describe it here. We’re going to have a mid-year variation on our Valentine’s day tradition of staying in with cheesy horror movies and pizza.

For the cotton anniversary, I gave The Fella the abominable-looking Lady Frankenstein, starring Joseph Cotten. Yeah.

Because it’s too hot to heat the oven, I’ll be picking up fantastic take-out pizza from Otto.

Wait for it… cotton.

I toyed with plenty of other gift ideas. For example, I thought about getting a really luxurious set of sheets, which we kinda need. Or towels, ditto. But I dismissed those as gifts for me, not for The Fella.

What did The Fella give me? A really luxurious set of sheets. And a really luxurious towel. Did I mention: this guy gets me.

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the face of love

What does love look like? There’s no one right answer to that question, but just in the last week, several people have shown me a few of the small, sweet, personal expressions of love — and I mean expressions, gestures and acts that might as well be smiles or gently furrowed brows. Here are two of them. This is the very face of love.

1. I’m scheduled for oral surgery, and I idly mentioned to my mother that the recovery period will make me wish we had cable “so I could just plop down and watch ‘Columbo’ for a few hours.”

Yesterday, she presented me with a bubble-mailer containing nine hours of “Columbo.” Mom, who is not yet confident in online ordering or particularly savvy at online searches, tracked down and ordered me a gift (and, from her perspective, a reasonable obscure gift) just to give me some comfort and distraction.

2. A few nights ago, I got three hours of sleep before I woke up hiccuping — and the hiccups lasted more than two hours. Silly? Yes. Funny? Yes. Harmless? Yes. Annoying and exhausting and, eventually, painful? Yes.

When The Fella left for work, I had stopped hiccuping. A few hours later, he called me to check in, “to see how you’re doing.”

I never miss a chance for self-mockery: “Because I was hiccuping?”

He was so gentle: “Because I know you had a hard morning.”

And that is how love can look: even in the face of the silliest affliction, he made sure I was okay before unleashing any jokes.

small good things, big good things

Good things make life good. Some of the good things are small, some of the good things are big, and all of the good things are good.

– fresh-baked anadama bread, fragrant with molasses, chewy with oats and whole wheat, and hot from the oven. I love the way it fills the whole apartment with its rich, wholesome scent.

– wrapping Christmas presents, which gives me a marvelous calm feeling of accomplishment. And the penguin wrapping paper I picked up at Local Surplus & Salvage Shop is pretty darned cheery.

– snow! Granted, by the time I got outside in it, it was just lashings of cold and wet, but still: SNOW!

– hot tea with milk and the faintest lacing of sugar.

– anadama bread again, because it’s just that good. Also, because I’m making a second batch already.

– bright red coarse-weave fabric (also from Local Surplus & Salvage Shop) for reupholstering the Danish modern chairs Gaoo gave me. (She rescued them from the junk pile at our parents’ old house, so they’re endearingly familiar, too.)

– Nick Hornby’s About A Boy.

– The sweetest husband in the world, who knows me inside out and upside-down and who loves me with all my flaws.

pancakes: a dream

A dream:

In the dream, The Fella and I decided quite practically and happily that we should each marry again, adding another husband and another wife to the marriage. The very straightforward dream reason: the more people in the marriage, the greater the likelihood that at least one spouse would be in the mood to make pancakes for all of us on a given morning. (Perfectly sensible, you have to admit, and as good an argument for polygamy as I’ve heard.)

Everything went swimmingly, without envy or rancor, right until my dream-fiancĂ© and I started talking about vows. He (and I’m sorry, fictional dream second husband, your features and character made no impression on me at all) started trotting out the classics about love and forever, and I quite plainly saw that I could not possibly marry this other husband…

… because I love The Fella in a way I never knew was possible, and there’s no one else I can love like this — no matter how many pancakes he would make me.

satellite

Two astronomical Valentines today, for geek love.

First, Ann Druyan reflects on the message she contributed to the Voyager Golden Record. [update: the original Radiolab broadcast dates from May of 2006, but I see that Morning Edition and Radiolab have replayed it as a Valentine’s Day broadcast. The rebroadcast is available here, but I recommend listening to the original broadcast in all its meditative, lyrical beauty.]

Second, Jonathan Coulter’s I’m Your Moon:

I’m your moon
You’re my moon
We go round and round
From out here, it’s the rest of the world that looks so small
Promise me
You will always remember who you are

I do

I’ve been studying the giant listing of vows at [wedding forum redacted], and as I do, I’m struck by how many people’s vows make untenable promises about “always”: I will always keep this passion alive, I will always adore you, you’ll always be my beloved and most awesomest best friend.

And I’m thinking, “…really? So, you can consciously control your impulses, turning on and off your flow of oxytocin and serotonin like a tap? Coooooool*. But most people don’t work like that.”

The realist** in me suddenly sees why marriage services are so often three-pronged: a celebration of the present with its smoochy-faced love; a reminder that marriage is Serious Business; a sobering pledge of fortitude in the face of challenges. The couple vows to behave a certain way, because, duh, you can’t control your passions, but you can control your behavior.

Because emotions are slippery, fickle things, I can’t sensibly promise how I will feel in the future. The Fella is my bestest beloved most awesomest best friend, and I’m entering this marriage believing that will always be so. I will nurture and bolster my passion, my fondness, my adoration of him, and do my best to give him reason to do the same. I enter this marriage believing that our love, sympathy, and hard work will keep these feelings vital and growing, always shifting and changing with us.

I can hope and believe and, most importantly, I can strive to make it so; I can’t promise that my crazy hindbrain will follow in step every day.

But I can pledge to treat him as someone I love and adore, as someone for whom I am passionate, as my bestest beloved most awesomest best friend. What, then, does that mean? For me, it means a promise of respect, trust, honesty, kindness, sympathy, and a mutual assumption of good intent now and in the future — even if I’m hurt, even in anger, even if my lizard-brain hisses at me.

Surely this is the crucial part of the vows, in any case. Ardent love and bountiful affection don’t test our vows of commitment. Marriage (or any bond of love or friendship) is predicated not on the continuance of fleeting passions, but on the determination to honor our promises, even (especially) when loving kindness flags or falters.

*I would like to cut you up and study you. Please?

**Yes, The Fella is aware that he’s marrying an affectless robot.