No small feat I assure you. For to give of oneself completely without losing oneself entirely is quite an accomplishment. We met nineteen years ago at a midpoint. Physically we met in Texas at Rice University which was a midpoint logistically since we were both just out of college, Washington University (St. Louis) for Joel, University of Arizona (Tucson) for myself. It was half a lifetime ago, as we were both just 21 and 22. We were at decision making places in our lives, should I go on to graduate school or a career, for Joel, should he accept the job offer he had or go a different direction. We come from entirely different backgrounds although our parents are the same generation. My parents, as I have written about before, are artists. I was born Woodstock weekend (a point of contention with my mother, after all she missed giving birth to twins in the middle of a mudfield because she went into labor before they could leave Baltimore for the music experience of a lifetime. I'm not so disappointed to have been born in a hospital, and after all, you can now see Woodstock on DVD, without any mud, but I digress). My parents protested the Vietnam War, Joel's father was in the service and was stationed overseas during the War. My parents met in college, my mother had already been married, and as the story goes left her husband for my father (Dad, if you are reading this, feel free to clarify that part of the story). Joel's parents met in high school, and married when Howard was home on leave, the day after Christmas. They have now been married 44years this December. My parents split up when I was four, and have both remarried since then. My parents, not religious. Joel's parents, Missionary Baptist. We moved just about every five years, and at one point I lived a year with my Dad (and then stepmother, Lisa) and at another point with my mom's parents. Joel had only moved once during his childhood, and as a matter of fact we now live in the neighborhood in Louisville where Joel grew up, and take walks past his childhood home. All of this is just the background that defined who were. It didn't necessarily determine who we were going to be. We we ready to make leaps into the unknown, as individuals certainly, but in regards to our families and friends as well.
As I said, we met at Rice University, during a Magazine/Book Publishing program. A month long summer camp for recent college grads not quite ready to be college grads. Classes during the day, the city at night. Was it the timing? Was it brother and sister folk singing duo, Trish and Darren and their rendition of "Pizza, love and understanding" (not a typo I assure you)? Was it his smile, the way his eyes light up when he is truly happy? I don't know what the magic was, but it was there. That butterfly in your stomach feeling when you look across the room. That breathlessness when you know you are getting ready to see him. That what will I wear so he notices me moment. We fell in love. And it would be great to say, that was it, but we had to return to our "real lives" when the month was over. I went back to Tucson, packed up, and moved to Southern California for graduate school. Joel took a job with Norton Publishing and moved to Kansas City, MO.
That could have been the end. We could have walked away with a wonderful summer love story. Ended it without tears or anger. But there was that spark, that something indefinable that said, make it work, make it happen, this is worth the effort. Worth the stacks of love letters we still have, where we wrote to each other every day. Worth the phone bills since we called each other every night. Worth the plane tickets since we visited each other at winter and spring breaks. It was worth it all because it has lead to this. Seventeen years of marriage, three beautiful children, a lifetime of memories and knowing that the best is still yet to come.
What we have? Paris and London, van Gogh, the Eiffel Tower, Stratford Upon Avon, the Tower and Curry Chicken. Going to one of Warren Zevon's last performances. Trip Shakespeare. The Sand Dunes in Michigan and the lighthouse in the UP. Shakespeare in Ontario. Sandwiches at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. Arthur Bryant BBQ in Kansas City. The Princess Bride, "as you wish." Nancy's Bagel Grounds and an apartment above Scott Nussbaum's antiques. Beach vacations (Mentor at Lake Erie, Chincoteague, Ana Maria Island, and sunburn.) Puerto Rico (together and with friends Steve and Susan). Weddings, Births, Funerals. Celebration. Heartache. "I would walk 500 miles, I would walk 500 more, just to be the Man who walked a 1000 miles to fall down at your door." What we have? US.
So, to my husband Joel. Who has been there when no one else was, literally, as we lived in both Kansas City, MO and Ann Arbor, MI without family to surround and embrace us. To Joel, who has cried along with me during our moments of sorrow, when we were ready for a family but God had other plans. To Joel, who has listened along with me when we heard each of our children's heartbeats for the first time, and is one of the most generous and loving father's that I know. To Joel, who supports me in all that I do and challenges me to do more, to do what I do better, and to always strive to be the best that I am for our family, friends, and community. To Joel, who still causes butterflies in my stomach when he walks into a room, and who leaves me breathless after a long kiss. To Joel, who still writes me love letters.
"For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation" Rilke