One of the last boxes I unpacked this weekend was clearly one that had lived in my last basment, half-unpacked, and then had a generous measure of “I’m nearly done packing but I don’t know where to put this stuff” items dumped in on top of it. I’m glad I took the time to go through it, because it did hold several items of sentimental value (“MAMA YOU ARE THE BEST MAMA LUV
MONKYE MONKEY”) and a couple of things I’d assumed were lost forever. It also held Otto’s wedding gift to me and my ex.
My first wedding was in 1994. I was 12. (I slay me. And no, I never tire of that joke.) Despite having grown up on the east coast, we were in grad school in California and it seemed to make the most sense to get married locally, rather than trying to coordinate a wedding long-distance. As a result, not very many of our friends came. Actually, I take that back; not very many of MY friends came. My ex is a few years older and more of his friends were finished with school and had actual jobs.
Otto had a job, but not a particularly lucrative one, and I was surprised when he told me he would find a way to get to my wedding.
He did it, though—he showed up and hung out and took pictures and teased me relentlessly. Just like the old days when we were in college. Little did he know, at the time, that he was setting himself up for HIS favorite joke; many years later, after we got engaged, he loved to answer any question about wedding planning with a wry, “Well, we’ve both already been to the wedding where she wore the big white dress….”
Otto’s wedding gift to us was the simplest thing we received: It was a plain spiral journal with a hearty cover, and a deck of playing cards to accompany it. Otto wrote us a wonderful note on the first page of the journal, leading off with something about how life is a journey and going on to say that he hoped we’d build memories together and record them together, and we’d continue to enjoy each other whether it was a grand expedition we were on or just a quiet afternoon of playing cards. “Record it all,” he wrote. “The good and the not-so-good. It’s all memories.”
So this weekend, I found the journal at the bottom of that last box (the cards have long since disappeared).
It was completely blank. We never wrote a single word in it.
I pulled it out and flipped through the pages, unable to wrap my mind around having shared nearly ten years with someone and having absolutely nothing to say about it.
I showed it to Otto, and then dropped it into the garbage with a melodramatic flourish. I did feel a small pang of regret, on the kids’ behalf, but it passed.
Last night as we sat down to dinner, Otto announced that he’d like to say grace. We usually go around the table in order and this wasn’t his night, so we all waited expectantly for what he’d have to say.
“Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us all together for this bountiful meal and for the blessings you bestow on us each and every day,” Otto began. “You have given us much and we are grateful for it.” Monkey wriggled in his seat and I poked him in a way that I hoped communicated “be still.”
“It was twenty years ago this week that my beautiful wife and I met,” continued Otto, and I grinned as I realized why he’d wanted to say grace. “Maybe we didn’t know, back then, what You had in store for us. Maybe I could’ve been smarter, and made this all happen a little sooner, but regardless, this week we look back on how it all began and give thanks.”
My head was bowed, and my eyes were getting a little damp, but I waited.
“And Lord,” he went on, “maybe we didn’t picture this, but I am grateful for it all. For my wife, for this life we have together, for these two wonderful children You’ve brought into my life, all of it. Thank you.”
I was dangerously close to bursting into tears.
“Sure, maybe sometimes we talk about trading in one or both of the kids for a camper, or a camera, or a dog—” three sets of eyes popped open and glared, and Otto looked up briefly and then calmly continued, “—so we don’t really know how long this is all going to last—”
“You’re done!” I said. “AMEN!”
“—but we sure are enjoying it,” he finished, a wicked little grin playing at the corners of his mouth. He looked up and smiled at me. “Amen.” I shook my head but could not stop smiling back.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. I hope love is weaving a wonderful story in your life, and that you remember to tell it.