Saturday, September 22, 2007

We're Stronger Than That (Amy Rigby)

R and I met when he was a senior and I was a sophomore in college (Fall 1974) - one Sunday a group of my friends had been challenged to an impromptu football game by another group on campus, and I went along to watch. I was recruited to be one of the down-marker (two pointed brooms with string tied between) holders - R flirted with me all day, but saw me leaving with my "gang" and assumed I was dating one of them (I wasn't). The next day I was in my usual spot/routine in The Student Center, drinking coffee/reading a book/smoking cigarettes (gave up that bad habit when I found out I was pregnant with S, over 26 years ago) - he came up, introduced himself to me and asked permission to sit down.

I was impressed by his good manners, among other things, and we were an item for the remainder of the year - he graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies and got a job in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky counseling servicemen. I stayed to finish my degree and we carried on a long-distance relationship for the remaining two years, writing, calling and visiting when we could - the April of *my* senior year, he asked me to marry him (after a particularly memorable lovemaking session) and we rolled out of bed to call our parents to share the good news - I graduated in June and we were married the following September.

An aside: During my last two years of school, I worked at a clothing boutique not far from the college - I would walk there directly after classes, putting in about 30 hours a week and getting a 30% discount. R and I had only been dating a few months when this beautiful dress came into the store - I knew then I had to have it, whether to be married or buried (whichever came first) in such elegance, and I put it on layaway immediately. It was an off-white muslin with long, crocheted-lace sleeves and an empire bodice (very Guinevere-ish) - the big joke in my family is that, with my discount, I paid $28. When my wedding day was finally announced, my mom tried hard to talk me into something more traditional but I would not be swayed - I still love that dress...

We stayed in our small college town for the next 8 years, moving temporarily to Atlanta en route to Puerto Rico (where we put in 4 1/2 years, a company transfer) - back to Atlanta for almost three years and then to South Florida, where we've resided for the last 15. Ups and downs, ins and outs, betters and worses go with the territory - we've lived to tell about it ("fairy tales and diaper pails" indeed... :-)

SONG: We're Stronger Than That by Amy Rigby

BOOK: Why I'm Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out on Love, Loss, Sex, and Who Does the Dishes by Karen Propp, Jean Trounstine

POEM: After An Absence by Linda Pastan

After an absence that was no one's fault
we are shy with each other,
and our words seem younger than we are,
as if we must return to the time we met
and work ourselves back to the present,
the way you never read a story
from the place you stopped
but always start each book all over again.
Perhaps we should have stayed
tied like mountain climbers
by the safe cord of the phone,
its dial our own small prayer wheel,
our voices less ghostly across the miles,
less awkward than they are now.
I had forgotten the grey in your curls,
that splash of winter over your face,
remembering the younger man
you used to be.

And I feel myself turn old and ordinary,
having to think again of food for supper,
the animals to be tended, the whole riptide
of daily life hidden but perilous
pulling both of us under so fast.
I have dreamed of our bed
as if it were a shore where we would be washed up,
not this striped mattress
we must cover with sheets. I had forgotten
all the old business between us,
like mail unanswered so long that silence
becomes eloquent, a message of its own.
I had even forgotten how married love
is a territory more mysterious
the more it is explored, like one of those terrains
you read about, a garden in the desert
where you stoop to drink, never knowing
if your mouth will fill with water or sand.

QUOTE: "Wasn’t marriage, like life, unstimulating and unprofitable and somewhat empty when too well-ordered and protected and guarded. Wasn’t it finer, more splendid, more nourishing when it was, like life itself, a mixture of the sordid and the magnificent; of mud and stars; of earth and flowers; of love and hate and laughter and tears and ugliness and beauty and hurt." ~ Edna Ferber

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